This man has spirit, and that’s required for real, positive change! Reverend Billy Talen is the leader of the Church of Life After Shopping and has been, for months or years now, protesting in bank lobbies to get them to stop funding mountain top removal. He posted this on facebook:
This peaceful bank seizure was that rare successful thing: nonviolent direct action in 2010 that worked. PNC’s financing of MTR was our whole point, and the Choir sang songs with the Earth Quakers and the folks from RAN. Four of us were taken to prison, and I learned a great deal about activism and life from George Lakey, my cellmate. A month later PNC pulled out of MTR, and we are jubilant! Appalachia-a-lujah!
Think about that before you take the easy route of decrying that “the system is beyond change!” and “I’m powerless!”
After losing the race to represent the Democrats in a special US Senate election, former Democratic politician (and arguably, institution as far as West Virginia is concerned) Ken Hechler has endorsed Jesse Johnson. Johnson is the nominee for US Senate of the Mountain Party, West Virginia’s affiliate of the Green Party.
Salon describes Hechler and his motivation for, at 95, running for Senate:
In his 95 years, Ken Hechler has recorded history from the front lines in World War II, debriefed Hitler’s top commanders before the Nuremberg Trials, advised Harry Truman, marched with Martin Luther King, published several books, been the subject of a documentary, and — somewhere between all of this — served nine terms in Congress and four as West Virginia’s secretary of state…
You say that you aren’t running anyone and that you want to use this race to raise awareness of mountaintop removal from strip mining. Why single out this issue?
I’m not really running for the Senate, I’m running to enable the people of West Virginia to register at the polls their opposition to this devastating practice, which hurts so many people in the valleys when they dump the rocks in the soil and all the things that they’re blasting out of the mountains into people’s front yards.
Hechler received about 17 percent of the vote in the primary. Now Johnson is the only candidate in the race who opposes mountaintop removal, a situation he was also in when he ran for governor in 2008.
The following video was posted on the front page of Johnson’s website:
A month ago, non-violent protesters infiltrated an anti-Progress Mines (Massey Energy) Mountaintop Removal site in Western Virginia. Through the early morning, they snaked through desolated terrain, formally beautiful mountains and valleys, reminiscent of a World War I battlefield. A trained group climbed the dragline and put up a Stop Mountaintop Removal sign.
Everyone involved had training in non-violent protest. Everyone involved knew that, no matter their actions, they risked physical harm from angered Massey Energy employees. They knew that they risked arrest for this action. Yet, they went in anyway because they know the harm that Mountaintop Removal is wrecking West Virginia and the devastation that coal is contributing to globally. People willing to sacrifice their safety and their liberty for something larger than themselves merit a simple description: hero.
And, when called, the police quickly arrived and eventually arrested 19 of the protesters. And, the FBI is investigating the incident (hmmm … probably not Massey Energy’s devastating impacts on the area and the planet).
In contrast, at a July 4th picnic with many of locals concerned about Mountain Top Removal went a bit differently than one might expect. The vast majority of those there: local citizens ranging in age from babies in their parents arms to octogenarians proud of the generations of their families there with them. To this event came 20 or so (rather obviously) drunken Massey Energy employees (okay, 20 or so people wearing Massey Energy clothing claiming that they worked for the company) who disrupted the event, cursing, and threatening people’s lives — quite directly. One witness account from jacquesellul.
My wife and I were present at the event and witnessed the? trespass and harassment. The MountainKeepers Festival is a family event with music, food, (no alcohol), and friends hanging out together.
The violent and obscene talk and physical threats certainly were frightening to children and their parents. It should be noted that some of the trespassers tried to prevent overt violence, and that others in the vicinity refrained from coming over.
Intimidation and threats are an ongoing occurrence.
The police arrived — over two hours after they were called. Despite publicly available film evidence of crimes (at minimum drunk and disorderly), there is no sign of impending arrests.
Hmmm … people make a peaceful protest and 19 people are arrested on site. On the other hand, people disrupt a private event, threaten people’s lives, and the “Friend of Coal” Gov. Joe Manchin has ignored the situation so far and the rest of the West Virginia State Government remains starkly silent.
And, the indications are that the potential exists for real, rather than simply threatened, violence to hit this battlefield for the future of West Virginia and the planet. Check out the comment sections to the video of the protest and the video of the picnic.
Last week, new Bushie rules were approved to authorize using streams, wetlands and waterways as waste dump sites as long as man-made streams are “created” to replace the streams killed by the waste. This is a faith-based rule: Even the government admits there is no evidence that people have the godly powers to create functional ecological stream systems. That faith is based on the greed of appeasing special corporate interests that don’t want to spend money on responsible waste disposal methods.
This rule is not limited to mining waste, but the destruction of streams and watersheds is prevalent in Appalachia. MTR mining has already destroyed 1,208 miles of streams in just 10 years, but greedy profiteers have since added another 535 miles.