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Movement to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining Raises Hell in D.C.

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Hundred activists sit in front of the White House demanding the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining be abolished. by Kevin Gosztola

*Update: I was working for a documentary in-production currently titled "Seriously Green." Follow the link for more information.

*See end of article for video montage of events.

Over a thousand Appalachian residents and activists participated in a rally and march in Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 27th. The action was the culmination of a multi-day convergence that had been put together by a coalition known as Appalachia Rising, which organized the activity to advance the movement to abolish mountaintop removal coal mining in the United States.

Those organizing understood in order to wage comprehensive action to end mountaintop removal all the players involved had to be sent a message. Plans were made to visit regulators, corporations making the practice possible, and President Obama, who has the power to end this practice once and for all.

Just before the rally, a number of activists staged an action at the Army Corps of Engineers building (the Army Corps of Engineers has the power to give permits for mountaintop removal projects). Nine young people went into the Department of Interior Office building and issued a series of demands for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. They refused to leave and staged a sit-in. And, at PNC's flagship location in D.C., Reverend Billy and the Life After Shopping Choir, Earth Quakers, and RAN Chicago all had activists inside who engaged in a sit-in inside the branch.

As the march made it's way to the White House, it stopped at the EPA building and at the PNC branch, where activists were still sitting in. Those marching chanted, "EPA do your job," and outside the bank, which is now the top funder of mountaintop removal projects, "PNC, you're killing our communities." One man, who presumably works for the EPA, laughed at those who had paid the agency he works for a visit. And, at the PNC location, bank managers and security detail expressed frustration that police could only arrest 4 people inside the building because they had to take care of the major action that was about to take place in front of the White House.

Led by key leaders of the movement like Teri Blanton and Larry Gibson, the march entered Lafayette Park and congregated and then took off across Pennsylvania Avenue to line up on the sidewalk outside the fence surrounding the White House. One group of Appalachians went to the White House gate and attempted to deliver a letter. Another group went in the opposite direction. And then, the two joined each other in front of the White House.

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In rainy weather, one hundred people sat down on the wet sidewalk and were cheered. They began to chant and sing as they waited for police to give their three warnings and then begin the arrests.

A bus that read, "This Bus is Running on Clean Natural Gas," menacingly sat ready for taking away those who were about to engage in civil disobedience and indicated just how important it is to, as the director of Gasland, Josh Fox, told filmmakers and activists at the convergence, merge the movements against mountaintop removal and natural gas drilling. Police vans were also brought to take the activists away.

The police were slow, arresting people one by one. This was likely because they wanted the hundreds of people who were standing behind police caution tape to leave and thought by prolonging the arrests support for those who were making them do extra work would dwindle. However, many remained and, in fact, walked under the caution tape multiple times giving food and water to anyone who was making a small sacrifice for the people of Appalachia.

Monday's actions started on Freedom Plaza with a rally that featured outspoken Appalachian residents from the movement and others.

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Maria Gunnoe, an organizer from West Virginia who has earned awards for opposing the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, declares that Appalachians will not back down. She delivered a message that the destructive practice is stealing our country's homeland security.

Gunnoe explained, "The youth is so knowledgeable of mountaintop removal and its impacts on their water and their land. Now, we have a government that thinks that they can regulate blowing up mountains. You cannot regulate destruction." And, she talked about being interviewed by people from other countries who don't get how the government in West Virginia expects Appalachians to blow up their mountains so they can have jobs.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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As always ,a wonderful piece. I loved the line We ... by Susan Lee Schwartz on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 10:51:09 AM
It is legal finagling, special laws and government... by Michael Olympia on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:24:05 PM
By buying in to the lie that fossil fuel is cheap,... by Michael Olympia on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:52:08 PM
You'd tell the hundreds of residents from Appalach... by Kevin Gosztola on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:58:13 PM
I am searching the comments and I do not see anyon... by Michael Olympia on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 5:46:08 PM
I was asking for clarification because of the comm... by Kevin Gosztola on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:20:23 PM
The companies who are doing this would not be able... by Michael Olympia on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 8:32:40 PM
Here is a link that describes a situation like the... by Michael Olympia on Friday, Oct 1, 2010 at 6:30:40 PM
I think that it's about time for a resurgence of t... by Ben Gardner on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:46:25 PM
Thank goodness that finally people are saying enou... by Suzana Megles on Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010 at 2:39:52 PM