Appalachia Rising Converges on White House in Mass Action
It was crazy times in our nation’s capitol this last week. Appalachia Rising, a mass mobilization calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining, converged thousands of coalfield residents and supporters in Washington D.C. for a conference called "Voices of the Mountains" and a mass march and action.
It was a pretty inspirational and emotional time.. One of the national leaders of the MTR Abolition movement, Judy Bonds, is ill with cancer and couldn’t travel to be here. The weekend conference and Monday action constantly reminded me and many others of her.
On September 27, we took action with the fierce spirit of Judy Bonds. Appalachia Rising organizers had called for autonomous actions in the morning targeting the agencies which regulate --but doesn't eliminate-- mountaintop removal. Later in the morning was the rally, main march and action that banged on the doors of the White House calling on President Obama to quit apoligizing for the coal industry and abolish allowing mountaintop removal once and for all.
That morning, we started the day off with Rising Tide North America occupying the lobby of the Army Corp of Engineers offices. The security guards rushed the nine person blockade and dragged them out of the building. After they got kicked out, they joined a support rally of 30+ folks which included two Kentucky coalfield residents for a rowdy protest in front of the Army Corp's office.
Around the same time, another affinity group occupied the Dept. of the Interior's lobby and the security guards tossed them out after a two hour occupation.
Later in the morning we had 2,000 people rally and march from Freedom Plaza to the EPA headquarters to the White House. The rally featured speakers from all over Appalachia and the climate movement.
Along the way, Rainforest Action Network, Earthquaker Action Team, Rev. Billy and the Life After Shopping Choir and a number of Swarthmore students occupied the flagship PNC Bank (the largest funder of MTR coal mining in the US) branch with 35 people and piles of Appalachian dirt. The PNC action resulted in 4 arrests.
At the White House, we had a great action. the march went into Lafayette Park and we had 3 arrest contingents with the first being made up of Appalachian Coalfield residents. It resulted in 116 arrests. The arrest contingent included coalfield residents from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia, NASA Climatalogist James Hansen, many radical activists from the Rising Tide, Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice networks, many students and youth from inside and outside of Appalachia and myself. After a brief time in custody, we were cited and released.
At the end of it, I felt like I’ve been on my feet for a week, but am so glad to be part of this mountain justice movement. I’ve been coming to Mountain Jusitce since 2006 and to see so many folks march and risk arrest at the White House leaves me feeling like I’m really part of a movement for social change.
Some media hits:
Washington Post front page: About 100 arrested in mountaintop mining protest
Huffington Post: Mass Arrests in DC: We Shall No Longer Be Crucified Upon the Cross of Coal (Jeff Biggers)
Friends of the Earth (U.S.): Photo Coverage
It’s Getting Hot in Here: 1,000 Calls for Appalachia- Dept. of the Interior Action report