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Police Harassment of Journalists in the Coal Fields of WV

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 9/14/09

Author 34922

Massey Morgan Rd Julian, WV 6AM ish 9-9-09
I was filming a Chain & Tube Lock Down Blockade of the road which leads to Massey Energy Regional Headquarters as the first workers of the day arrived. I was wearing my Press Pass prominently around my neck. The road was an intersection off of a 4 lane road with a 65 mph speed limit and the blockade was about 40-50 yards from the intersection. The road appeared to continue for approximately 1/4 mile. There is nothing at this intersection that marks it any differently than any other road intersecting this 4 lane roadway. This part of West Virginia often has severe fog problems, but not this morning. I interviewed the participants and waited for the cops to show up. The cops arrived quickly. I positioned myself about 30-40 feet from the lock-down and waited for the police interaction with the protesters. Deputy Eric Eversole appeared to be first on the scene. He briefly surveyed the situation at the lock-down and then abruptly turned walking quickly toward me and said:

"Turn your camera off. You're under arrest for trespassing."

I responded something to the effect that I was a Journalist and I was willing to leave and he responded that I could not, that I was under arrest. I'm not sure if I turned off the camera or not, I was experiencing a level of shock at the time.

He confiscated my camera, cuffed me and instructed me to stand off to the side and I did so. Later he came over and thanked me for being cooperative, to which I said, "Well of course; I'm not here to protest, I'm just here to do my job."

I watched as the cops quickly snapped the chain that attached the protesters to a guard rail on one side and a lamp post on the other. The protesters were asked to stand up and move to the side of the road. They politely expressed that they could not do that in good conscience and expressed remorse that they were forced by necessity to be there there at all.

Several more squad cars and police showed up, they blocked one lane of 2 lanes traveling north on the road and then tried to scare the protesters into moving of their own volition by saying the traffic was backing up and if someone died on the road they would be charged for murder. There was no back up of traffic and the protesters held strong.

The police then dragged the 4 protesters off of the road with the brunt of the force being exerted on the arm of the 81 year old. Other officers and Massey security assisted in dragging them off by pulling on various appendages of the other protesters. The protesters were placed in the ditch along the road so that workers entering Massey Headquarters could get by. The authorities then set about figuring out how to dismantle the protesters from the tubes and chains that connected them.

Convinced that the protesters were just holding hands inside the tubes Deputy Eversole decided to test this theory by yanking on the weakest link ... again... the arm of the 81 year old.

Eventually, they were able to separate the protesters and we all took a ride to the Madison, WV Jail.

None of us were ever read our rights, ever. This was not an oversight, because as I rode to the jail with Deputy Eversole he attempted to interrogate me about my personal opinion regarding Mountaintop Removal. When I declined to have that conversation when I was not "in the system," and he was not on the clock, he reminded us that we had not been read our rights and that he would not be able to use anything I said at this time against me. ... I declined the conversation, feeling certain that that was a lie; but told him that I would tell him what I had heard from the strip-miners I had interviewed who acknowledged that MTR mining was not a "good" thing, but since they had no other job opportunities they were unable to fully consider the issue.

Upon seeing my charges for the 1st time, at the Madison Jail, I learned that I was being charged identically to the 4 protesters.
1) Conspiracy,
2) Trespassing, Refused to Leave,
3) Destruction of property,
4) Resisting Arrest and
5) Disobeying a lawful order.

Roughly 11 hours after being arrested we were shuttled to Southern Regional Jail in Holden, WV which sits on a former strip mine just a few miles from the site of the Massey sponsored Friends of America rally (which was also on a former strip mine site). My video tape was now officially seized as "evidence" and 2 of my charges had been dropped. leaving..

1) Conspiracy,
2) Trespassing, Refused to Leave and
3) Disobeying a lawful order.

My current paperwork still lists me as chained to 3 others on a private road. Also I was instructed that I could not get my video tape or a copy until they were done using it as evidence.

At regional jail we were deloused, informed that we would be charged 30 dollars for the privilege of being booked, given our orange pajamas and began the booking process. When presented with my inventoried list of personal items I quickly rattled off about 10 items that they had neglected to list including my cash. When we got to the health screening and next of kin notifying section of the booking process myself and 22 year old protester Joe, from Charleston West Virginia, both refused to be injected with a Tuberculous Test on the grounds that we were not willing to be guinea pigs for some pharmaceutical company. As punishment, we were stripped of our orange pajamas and give a blue flannel muumuu to indicate that we were now on SUICIDE WATCH and that we were not allowed to mix with the general population and that WE WOULD NOT BE GETTING OUR PHONE CALL. We were placed in a one man cell with 2 other inmates who were actually suicidal when entering the system. 3 of us were accused of misdemeanors and 1 claimed to be in for the FELONY OF CAPITAL MURDER. Housing misdemeanors and Felons in the same cell, I hear, is illegal. Denying an inmate a single phone call is, I believe, illegal. More about the TB test later.

After a night of sleeping in glaring florescent light with our legs folded under us as a 300lb accused murderer pissed 2-3 ft from our heads every 1/2 hr we were able to see the Psychologist who could take us off Suicide Watch.

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I currently travel and work from a vegetable Oil powered school bus. The NOmadjik Media bus will be attending major political and societal functions throughout the continental US until it is not longer possible.

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Police Harassment of Journalists in the Coal Fields of WV