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CONTACT: Blair Mountain Coalition and Appalachia Rising
March on Blair Mountain Media Headquarters, (304) 518-0696;
500 Set to March 50 Miles in W. VA to Call for a Sustainable Appalachian Future, Protection of Blair Mountain
Community leaders, union members, celebrities and conservationists will honor labor struggles, call for an end to surface mining, and demand safe, sustainable jobs in Appalachia
NATIONWIDE - June 2 - Upwards of 500 marchers from across Appalachia and the United States will participate in a 50-mile march from Marmet, W.Va., to Blair, W.Va., calling for the preservation of Blair Mountain and the abolition of mountaintop removal mining, in an event dubbed Appalachia Rising: The March on Blair Mountain. Blair Mountain, located in Logan County, W.Va., is currently under threat of destruction by mountaintop removal.
Marchers will follow the same route as the coal miners who marched to Blair Mountain in 1921 in an effort to unionize mines in southern West Virginia. The ensuing battle between 10,000 coal miners and the coal industry’s hired gunmen is remembered as the largest armed uprising in United States history since the Civil War, and a landmark event in the labor struggles of the early 20th century.
“Ninety years ago, Blair Mountain epitomized the struggle of working men everywhere who sought a better quality of life,” said Chuck Keeney, a history professor at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College and the great-grandson of famed UMWA leader Frank Keeney. “Today, Blair Mountain’s meaning is very similar, for we march to honor the past and provide a vision for a better quality of life for both mountaineers and all Americans.”
The week’s events will kick off on Sunday, June 5, when Grammy award-winning bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien and other West Virginia pickers will play a concert in tribute to the late Hazel Dickens. The concert will take place at the Culture Center in Charleston and benefit the March on Blair Mountain. Tickets and more information are available at http://blairmountainconcert.eventbrite.com/.
On Monday, June 6, a brief press conference will be held at nine a.m. at the baseball field in downtown Marmet, W.Va. Chuck Keeney; Coal Country producer Mari-Lynn Evans; Salt Rock native Brandon Nida; and others are scheduled to speak. Additionally, a tele-press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, June 8. Information regarding the Wednesday press conference will be released on the marchonblairmountain.org website.
Hundreds more are expected to attend the final day’s rally in Blair, W.Va., on June 11, where Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Ashley Judd, and other artists will perform. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., will speak at the rally, along with acclaimed Appalachian writer Denise Giardina and retired UMWA miner and community organizer Chuck Nelson.
In March of 2009, Blair Mountain was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but coal operator pressure on state agencies led to its de-listing nine months later.
Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of coal mining that involves blasting off the tops of mountains in order to extract the seams of coal underneath. Overburden—the industry term for topsoil, trees, and rock containing toxic heavy metals—is dumped in valleys, finding its way into water sources and contaminating the drinking water of those who live nearby. Community members living near mountains permitted for mountaintop removal often choose to vacate their homes rather than endure these adverse conditions, which also include increased flooding and poor air quality.
Dustin Steele, a student at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and native of Mingo County, said, “As a youth in the southern coalfields, I see my future being stripped away by irresponsible mining practices, specifically mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal strips the prospect of a sustainable future by taking the health and vitality of Appalachia’s most important resource--its people.”
For a complete schedule of events, list of spokespeople, and other information, please visit marchonblairmountain.org