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.
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.
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.