Three Statements from Arch Coal Disrupting Activists:
Coal has always been in the forefront of my life. A UMWA pension is what kept food in my stomach and a roof over my head. The lure of the mines has attracted most of my family, a majority of the folks I went to school with, some of my greatest allies, and a group of pro coal protesters who serve as the little dutch boy with their finger in the damn.
I have seen coal wreck everything around me! Mountains that once blanketed me in a sense of security, peace and the only place I call home. Arch along with other coal companies have spent the last 125 years destroying that home; with a heart of metal, and a mind of money they sink their teeth deep into the heart of Appalachia. They care for nothing, except draining the last profitable drop of blood out of West Virginia; they will not stop until every lump of coal is ripped out of the ground.
They ask us to compromise, to believe that they hold the keys of progress and prosperity in their hands. Arch tells us to think to think of the economy, to think about all the jobs they bring to my community. I will say once and for all TO HELL WITH THEIR ECONOMY! I will not allow their economy to kill any more of my friends. I will not allow Arch another inch in this struggle; there will be a winner and loser in this fight for the future of Appalachia and it sure as hell won't be the coal companies.
Today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of my life I will disrupt business as usual. From St. Louis to the strip site, from the city to the hollers, wherever they are I will be there fighting for every inch, fighting for every permit, and I won't stop until Arch is nothing more then a collective bad memory. So as they drag me out of their office, all their doing is empowering our struggle.
We are strong and we are everywhere. If there are extractive industries trying to exploit the land and the people, whether it be in the Tar sands in Canada, or Peabody trying to destroy the brave folks fighting for the ancestral way of life on Big Mountain we will be there to tell them either you are going to stop destroying our communities or you will be fighting me and all of my other allies until you put us in the ground!
For the land and the people,
I am here at Arch today because a few people here have been making decisions on behalf of all of us and they have been sacrificing the health of communities in Appalachia and across the world for their quarterly profits. Capitalism does not answer to communities, it only consumes them; we must resist this and reclaim our health and freedom. Accountability is only possible when the perpetrators of a crime are answerable to their actions. This is only possible when we come together and listen.
When we come together in community, we create a world in which history and culture are valued, and in which we listen and help those around us. We listen to the people around us because there is so much that we don’t see. When we hear about the struggles of our community we are able to create imaginative and creative solutions to the problems we face together. That’s what being in a community is about: being able to hear and be heard. That’s the issue with big things, like corporations and the government. They’re too big; there is no act of listening.
This resistance is about communities and their ability to exist in a way that does not destroy themselves, and their ability to determine their own future. Communities in the coal fields are being destroyed. Not only is the land being ripped apart with explosives and poisoned, but Big Coal has created a devastating mono-economy, which creates divides between people and forces many to abandon their home places. Coal companies have stolen the sovereignty of the people from the land. What’s happening in West Virginia is happening everywhere; this is just an exemplary case. Communities are on the brink because of corporate power, and we have to stand with each other.
So my struggle is against a few people who are making bad choices on behalf of all of us and our communities. That’s what these CEOs are doing, and that’s what these corporations are doing. They are crushing communities, they are crushing individuals, and they are crushing the planet.
I am here to make them listen.
The first time that I learned about the reality of mountaintop removal I was in Alabama, being guided through the woods by a man across what had been his family’s land. He had lost it to the coal companies, but to him it was still his. He led us through the woods, and the closer we got to the mine the more barren, dead the forest became with the water levels rising where they shouldn’t be. As we looked out over the mine with the backdrop of massive machines bigger than houses, I remember him choking up, saying, “I don’t want this to be my family’s legacy.”
I live in Asheville, NC now, and I’m an herbalist there. I learned in the mountains of Tennessee. As I talk to other herbalists, and other Appalachians, and other Mountain Folk, the more I learn that MTR has taken away our access to mountain medicine; it takes away our ability to heal ourselves and our ability to live self-sufficiently. What these companies are doing takes away our self-reliance, and our ability to be a part of a community and to take care of each other. And part of that culture is being accountable to those around you. We have to have accountability to our communities and to our lands.
One of the things that I want to maintain is an anti-capitalist perspective. MTR is capitalism at its most basic and purest form. It is the oppression of people and the environment, really any living thing. Everyone who participates denies accountability for what they are actually doing. Everyone wants to avoid culpability, and that sickens me.
Mother Jones said, “Pray for the dead. Fight like hell for the living.” I really believe in that. So many have died in this fight, Larry Gibson, Judy Bonds. Larry was a real elder in our movement. He opened his arms and heart to all of us—he called us his children. MTR takes our elders from us. It gives them cancer and destroys their health. Judy died from cancer. One thing that I learned from Larry is that we have to keep fighting. This movement needs to keep growing and keep fighting because so many of our elders, so much of our community is dying.
I have no faith that we can appeal to our government and ask permission to have our livelihoods back. We cannot appeal to our government to have people stop raping our land and poisoning our friends. We have to take the power back. Maybe if I believed that petitioning our government would make a difference, that might be what I would do. But I do not believe that would do anything. I am taking this action because I want to see those CEO’s, the armchair dictators of oppression who are profiting off of the land and the oppression of rural peoples, and I want to hold them accountable. Accountable to my elders and the land—my community.