Despite threats and intimidation by King Coal’s supporters, 600 courageous marchers kicked off a five-day march from Marmet, WV to Blair Mountain.
Blair Mountain was the site of the second largest armed insurrection (after the Civil War) in U.S. history when, in 1921, 8,000-10,000 miners fighting for union rights took up arms against hired coal thugs. Blair Mountain has been an iconic symbol for both the U.S. labor movement and West Virginia itself ever since. And now coal companies want to strip mine Blair Mountain. They’ve already stripped it of its historical preservation status and are now seeking permitting to strip mine it.
In fact, they’ve already begun strip mining on parts of it, or so I hear.
You can tell the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection “Don’t let big coal destroy our history” by sending a comment to tell them to protect Blair Mountain.
While the 1921 marchers faced hardship and armed opposition (including armed private security, bombs from planes, and federal troops), the 2011 marchers are facing harassment by pro-coal supporters along the way. A tweet this morning from @marchonblairmt reported “Road has scattered clusters of opposition as honking coal trucks hug the the shoulder – marchers squeeze to fit on.”
But this march is also seeing new alliances between United Mine Workers locals and environmentalists. Blair Mountain organizer and archaeologist Brandon Nida said at this morning’s press conference as the march kicked off, “The unions protect [workers] in the workplace and environmentalist protect them at home. They’re the same.”