Question of the week: Has any Obama administration or West Virginia state official publicly denounced the violence by the mountaintop removal operators this week?
Courtesy Coal River Mountain Watch / Amy SicklesIn last Tuesday’s nonviolent march from Marsh Fork Elementary School, which sits downslope of a precarious 2.8 billion gallon coal sludge impoundment, and a Massey Energy coal prep site, a Massey Energy Spousal Group member violently assaulted Goldman Prize Winner and Coal River Mountain Watch Co-Director Judy Bonds. The video of the attack is at the bottom of this post:
Judy Bonds, the victim of the attack and one of the arrestees, later went to the emergency room. Doctors treated her injuries and gave her medicine and orders not to return to work until next week. Coal River Mountain Watch community organizer Lorelei Scarbro, a coal miner’s widow, just barely escaped an assault.
While violent attacks by hired thugs are nothing new in the coalfields, this act of violence took place by union-busted Massey Energy supporters, who also used air horns, threatened violence, shouted obscenities and crowded against event attendees, in blatant acts of intimidation.
This begs the question: Why is the Obama administration supporting these violent, union-busting supporters of an outside coal company that has devastated a region with mountaintop removal operations, plundered it for record profits in 2008, and then slashed its union-busted workforce this spring?
“This violent, unprovoked attack demonstrates the tactics Massey will use to silence and intimidate local residents,” Bonds said. “This reminds me of the 1999 reenactment of the Blair Mountain march, in which coal industry supporters kicked, pushed, and spat on Ken Hechler and other marchers, including female senior citizens and me.”
“Is this really how we want to represent West Virginia?” asked Coal River resident Sarah Haltom, one of the arrested protesters. “Gov. Manchin says to ‘come home to West Virginia,’ but Massey tells us to either go away or shut up about defending our homes from mountaintop removal. My husband and I both received threats of violence during the day.”
In a statement sent via email Friday, Dr. James Hansen, who was near Bonds at the time of the attack said, “As for the local people, we found them to be very friendly, and the state police were courteous and professional. Massey employees were out in force making as much noise as possible to try to drown out the speakers at the protest.”
“Pro-mountain community activists adhere to principles of nonviolence, but the coal industry has no such principles,” Coal River resident Vernon Haltom said. “Pro-coal rally speakers have consistently used hostile, aggressive and inflammatory language. Last year we asked Gov. Manchin and others to tone it down. Instead we are subjected to violent attacks with the tacit approval of Manchin, Massey CEO Don Blankenship, West Virginia Coal Association president Bill Raney and United Mineworkers president Cecil Roberts. Not one of them has publicly denounced the violence or called for industry supporters to behave nonviolently.”
For more on Judy Bonds, see:
Here’s the video: