On Friday, October 30th, seven Lawrence University students participated in a national day of protest to end mountaintop removal coal mining. Along with concerned citizens at more than two hundred demonstrations around the country, the students demanded an end to the explosion and leveling of mountains. This popular resistance to mountaintop removal stems from the fact that, in addition to destroying valuable ecosystems, mountaintop removal contaminates groundwater and threatens the welfare of people living in nearby communities. The students gathered at the College Avenue Chase Bank to educate customers about mountaintop removal and Chase’s leading role in financing the practice. At the doors of the bank, one student played Appalachian folksongs in celebration of the unique culture of mountain communities. Meanwhile, the other students rinsed the bank’s walls to draw attention to Chase’s dirty investments.
The day of protest circumstantially took place five days after Massey Energy detonated its first set of explosives in Coal River Valley, a mountain range in West Virginia. Many residents of Coal River Valley have protested Massey’s blasting permits for months, with hundreds arrested during acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Instead of mountaintop removal, residents support the construction of a proposed 328MW wind farm. A 2007 study found that such a project would provide permanent jobs and $1.7 million in tax revenue to Raleigh County each year. Distressingly, as Massey levels the mountains for short term profit, the company also destroys the contours responsible for the region’s unique wind resources. Worse yet, Coal River Mountain Watch warns that blasting may destabilize the Brushy Fork sludge dam, spilling its toxic contents onto nearby communities. So, Raleigh County stands at a cross roads. One road leads to contamination and unemployment, while the other leads to security and prosperity. We must support the people of Coal River Valley to ensure its potential and to forestall Massey’s antidemocratic, inhumane, exploitation.