People Power Works and We’re Taking It to Blair Mountain

By scott parkin
We won't stop until you do
In Egypt, labor and pro-democracy movements used wildcat strikes and direct action to shake the dictatorship's foundations and launch a mass movement. In Appalachia, environmental, student and anti-MTR movements have been using direct action to shake the coal industry's foundations and launch a mass movement.

Gandhi. King. Eastern Europe. Seattle. Latin America. Peopl- powered, non-violent, yet confrontational movements make historical change.

We’re now in the midst of another groundswell of people power. As we’ve seen in Egypt, Tunisia and the U.S. Midwest, peaceful protest and non-violent direct action have led the way.

Now the Appalachian movements for a just, sustainable future and an end to mountaintop removal are flexing their own people-powered muscle. From June 5-11, Appalachia Rising is organizing a march, rally and direct action at Blair Mountain to re-trace the steps of the 1921 miners’ march and the Battle of Blair Mountain. This march, rally and action will be commemorating the 90 year anniversary of that battle.

In 1921, 15,000 miners fighting for the right to unionize fought it out with the coal industry’s gun thugs. It was the 2nd largest armed insurrection in U.S. history (after the Civil War). The miners eventually lost as King Coal collaborated with the federal government to send in federal troops to suppress the uprising. It was the only time in U.S. history that the U.S. military dropped bombs from the air on it’s own people (remind anyone of anything? Qaddafi? anyone?). It’s also the origins of the word “redneck” as the miners wore red bandannas to distinguish themselves from the gun thugs. Eventually the miners laid down their arms as many were World War One veterans and refused to fight their fellow soldiers.

The march on Blair Mountain will include a five-day, 50 mile march (hundreds have already registered), a concert, a rally featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and a non-violent direct action on Blair Mountain itself.

In the past 6 years, we’ve seen a groundswell of bottom-up, Appalachian-led non-violent direct action.These actions have been the building blocks for more bigger and badder actions.

Pre-2005-Appalachians wage a campaign of advocacy, protest and action against coal companies for many years trying to call attention to and end mountaintop removal.

2005Mountain Justice has its first camp and summer of actions against mountaintop removal. Hundreds of Appalachians, students and activists participate. Highlights include a civil disobedience at Marsh Fork Elementary and a march through Richmond, VA to arch coal criminal Massey Energy’s HQ.

2006– Mountain Justice continues their campaign. This includes a mass action organized by Earth First! and Rising Tide North America at the Clinch River coal plant in Carbo, VA.

2007– Mountain Justice Spring Break has their first camp. The camp ends with an action at West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s offices where over a dozen are arrested.

2008– Appalachian residents, Blue Ridge Earth First!, Mountain Justice, Rainforest Action Network and others take numerous actions against a Dominion coal plant in Wise County, VA that is under construction. These actions include blockades at Dominion’s HQ in Richmond, VA and a blockade at the plant itself.

Climate Ground Zero launches a direct action campaign against mountaintop removal in southern WV. Over 100 are arrested in dozens of road blockades, tree-sits, mass sit-ins and more.

2009-2010– Rainforest Action Network launches a campaign to end mountaintop removal against the EPA and banks such as Chase and PNC. Actions include lockdowns and sit-ins at EPA offices.

2010Appalachia Rising organizes the largest mass action on mountaintop removal to date. Over 2,000 march through the streets of Washington D.C. to the White House where over 120 are arrested in peaceful civil disobedience.

2011– A group of Kentucky writers, students and activists, including noted writer-farmer Wendell Berry, stage a sit-in at Kentucky Gov. Steve Breshear’s office in Frankfurt over his complicity in the destruction of eastern Kentucky’s mountains by the coal industry.

This movement will succeed and we are winning.

Join us at Blair Mountain as we add another nail in mountaintop removal’s coffin.