In a story the flew below most national media radars last week, hundreds of anti-fracking and anti-mountaintop removal activists stormed the West Virginia capitol on Friday to "speak in one voice" against coal and gas companies and their ongoing destruction of Appalachian communities.
Marching into the capitol rotunda in Charleston, the protesters chanted "Hey, Governor Tomblin, stop mountain bombing!" as they unfurled a giant banner which read, "Support the People, not the Polluters."
Taking the megaphone, Dustin White of Boone County declared, "It is not our patriotic duty to die for gas or coal. We will stand up and demand a better West Virginia. We will fight. We will fight for clean air. We will fight for clean water. We will fight for our history and our future. And one day we will win.”
He continued: "We’re here today to mainly talk about the health impacts of these practices. There are ways to produce electricity that doesn’t put people in jeopardy. We are fighting for that type of future."
According to a statement released by Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival (RAMPS), the protest was spurred by a recent onslaught of proposed legislation, such as HB 2579 which slashes water safeguards for selenium poisoning undercutting West Virginia’s "already meek pollution control standards."
Before entering the building, activists from across Appalachia gathered outside the the capitol. Despite the scant media coverage of the event, an opposition rally of coal workers and supporters also gathered on the lawn.
Deirdre, an activist from the Pennsylvania gasfields, spoke to the crowd:
We are here to show that we are united and saying ‘no’ to all dirty and deadly industries. What we want is a clean and healthy economy in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and beyond, an economy that doesn’t poison our water, toxify our air, sicken our bodies and fracture our communities… The West Virginia governor, just like our governor in Pennsylvania, has blood on his hands. They have followed the orders of polluting industries. They have acted as traitors to the people who elected them.
Friday's protest kicked off a season of escalating actions against 'Big Energy' companies planned throughout Appalachia including Mountain Justice’s Spring Break campaign.
"We will be back in more numbers until this stops" declared protester Junior Walk. "We’re not gonna stop."