Police Harassment of Journalists in the Coal Fields of WV
I was arrested unlawfully while filming a civil disobedience action and experienced numerous violations of my right while in custody. This is the story.
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.
"Why are you on suicide watch? "I refused to take the TB test." "Why would you do that?" "I take no pharmaceuticals for health or pleasure and I don't trust that the test will not harm me" "Why would you think that?" "Because it's a fact that pharmaceutical companies test new drugs on inmates and Military personnel and I'm not willing to be a guinea pig" "Are you overly paranoid about anything else?" "I'm not overly paranoid about anything, it's a fact."
All 4 of us were taken off suicide watch. The other 2 graduated back to orange pajamas and were introduced into the general population. Joe and I remained in the suicide tank with our blue flannel muumuus because we were not going to be allowed into the general population without taking the TB test.
After the relief of being able to stretch our legs got old; I found an appropriate time to request my phone call. I was informed by the guard that we STILL would not be getting our phone call because of refusing the TB test. He said he didn't know what our problem was; that he had a family to go home to and didn't want to be bringing my Tuberculous back to them, he continued, that he gets the test every year and he's never had TB. He was raising his voice at this time and .. so did I as I reminded him that it was just a Test not a Vaccine AND that the test DID NOT INDICATE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE FOR 3 DAYS therefore it did nothing to prevent him or anyone else in general population from getting TB from an infected inmate. He yelled back that I was one of those Know-It-Alls and reiterated that we would not be getting a phone call. Shortly after this Joe noticed that he had gone into a side room and came out with a new pepper spray canister on his side.
Somewhere around 4:20 pm yesterday I overheard the guards preparing to release someone. It turned out to be me. As they were checking me out I was shown a piece paper and told to sign it.
"What is it?" "It just says you didn't have any cash on you when you came in so you're not getting any back" "Then I'm not signing it cause it's not true sir. I saw the envelope with my name and $99.00 written on it when I was processed" hem haw... hem haw ... assistant chimes in "oh, yeah, here it is"
They deducted the 30 dollar jail fee from my cash and WROTE ME A CHECK for the rest, walked me out of the building and handed me a brown paper bag with all of my non clothing belongings in it with no opportunity for me to verify that everything was there.
I was now 10-20 miles from anything, on top of a former Mountaintop Removal site, with a dead cell phone, having been allowed to call no one. None of the others arrested with me had been released with me, I had no cash, I had no idea why I was released or what had happened to the vehicle I had driven to the protest.
After a few minutes of repacking my stuff into my vest while uttering obscenities regarding my situation; a car pulled up with some Climate Ground Zero activists in it. They had bailed me out: 3 thousand dollars CASH. Presumably they did this to foster good relations with the press. Knowing that every journalist that attempts to cover their actions will likely have their rights violated, I can now assume that they intend to make sure those journalists with enough balls to be there will not be disappeared into the system with no phone call, rotting in a 1 person cell with 3 others while waiting months for a court date.
It's touching and honorable that they would put up money for me before taking care of their own. It is testament to the integrity of their organization. If you would like to help cover some of the cost to them for my wrongful arrest you can make a donation at their website. Tell them thank you for me, I'm sure they would appreciate it and put the money to good use.
Submitters Bio: 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.