For Immediate Release
Hundreds of Participants Begin Third Day of March for Protection of Blair Mountain
Marchers Committed to Ending Mountaintop Removal Despite Coal Industry Pressure
MARMET, W.V. - On their third consecutive day of marching under the hot sun and pouring rain, hundreds are headed to historic Blair Mountain, singing, chanting and carrying signs memorializing mountains destroyed and communities put in jeopardy from mountaintop removal. They are drawing ever closer to the site of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain.
Marchers have been met with supportive chants, calls and even flowers and waving school children along the route. This has occurred even though the coal industry has exerted great pressure on campsite owners and operators who have shut them out of six different sites in the past two weeks for overnight housing.
Appalachia Rising: The March on Blair Mountain began Monday, June 6th with a vibrant rally that kicked off a spirited day of marching. The rally featured local community leaders who are fighting devastating mountaintop removal in the state and working towards sustainable job creation. Marchers headed down MacCorkle Avenue in Marmet towards route 94 with banners reading “Save Blair Mountain” and “Appalachia Deserves a Clean, Local Economy.” Marchers then moved onto the side of 94 and made their way to the base of Lens Creek Mountain.
Mari Lynn Evans, producer of Coal County said, “Our air, our land, our water are all being destroyed forever by mountaintop removal coal mining. Our people are sick, and they are living in some of the deepest poverty in America, while all around them coal trucks haul away their health and their wealth.”
At Lens Creek Mountain, marchers were shuttled to the top for lunch. Marchers descended the mountain by foot around 4:45, moving towards Racine. They marched through Racine, turning on to Route 3 towards Whitesville, reaching the John Slack Park at about six pm.
Monday night at approximately ten o’clock the County Commissioner of Boone came to the park to order all marchers to leave the park, reversing a prior verbal agreement with the park director. They said that if the marchers did not leave the park they would ask police to arrest all marchers. A small group of vocal counter-protesters added tension to the situation. Police worked with the marchers to evacuate John Slack Park safely. Marchers were shuttled to their backup campsite late Monday night.
Owners and operators of both private and public campsites in Boone, the largest coal producing county in West Virginia, are being pressured and intimidated by the coal industry in an effort to inhibit the march.
“What we do know is that many of the owners of these campsites were very hospitable at first, but have since said with regret that we cannot rest on their property,” said Chuck Keeney, great-grandson of famed UMWA leader Frank Keeney. “The coal companies are trying to stop us by throwing obstacles and propaganda in our way. Still we march on. The time is now. The place is Blair Mountain, West Virginia.”
According to the WVU West Virginia Coal Economy 2008 report, total coal-related revenue in Boone County is $26,085,126 and 73.6% of total county revenues. Additionally, coal directly provides approximately 48.5% of all jobs in Boone County.
Participants of March on Blair Mountain continued marching Tuesday, June 7th with a late start. Marchers made their way down route 3, turning onto route 19 covering a total of 5 miles before heading back to Marmet due to an intense rain, wind, and hail storm.
Despite persistent challenges, participants are committed to marching the full way to Blair Mountain. Marchers are thankful to the W.Va. state police for their assistance and respect throughout the march and the people of Marmet for showing true W.Va. hospitality.
Hundreds more are expected to join throughout the march. The march will end with a rally in Blair, W.Va., on June 11, where Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, 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 leader Chuck Nelson.