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Over 1000 Rally in Blair, W.Va. for Protection of Historic Blair Mountain
Massive Rally and March to Mountain’s Crest was Culmination of Five-Day, Fifty Mile March Against Mountaintop Removal
BLAIR, W. Va. - June 13 - Over 1000 people gathered in Blair, W.Va., on Saturday, June 11, at the base of historic Blair Mountain to rally for the abolition of mountaintop removal, strengthened labor rights, the protection of Blair Mountain, and investment in a sustainable local economy for Appalachia. Kathy Mattea and other artists performed at the rally in support of protecting Labor’s ‘Gettysburg’ from destructive mountaintop removal mining. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., spoke along with acclaimed Appalachian writer Denise Giardina and retired UMWA miner and community leader Chuck Nelson.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shared wisdom from his father, “When I was 14 my father said to me, ‘...there is no way you can regenerate an economy from these barren moonscapes that are left behind and they are doing it so they can break the unions,’ and that is exactly what happened.”
Grammy winning artist, and WV native Kathy Mattea reminded us, “I am here today because I care about these mountains. I am here today because I care about my own people and I am here today because I care about all the people. But mostly I am here because I care about civil conversation and I care about everyone’s human need and human rights.”
Following the rally, 755 people marched two miles to the crest of historic Blair Mountain, completing the five-day, fifty-mile March on Blair Mountain that 225 people began on Monday, June 6th. Marchers followed the same route that 10,000 union coal miners took in 1921, on their way to organize non-union Mingo County. The miners fought coal company hired-guns and corrupt police forces at Blair Mountain, before federal troops were called in to end the Battle of Blair Mountain. Marchers placed a memorial to the 1921 miners on the original battleground.
“Here we are 90 years later and we're still fighting the same issues―unsafe conditions in non-union mines. I worked underground for 21 years and UMWA was the best friend a miner could have. We're going to save Blair, Coal River Mountain, Twilight, communities in eastern Kentucky, and Ison Rock Ridge. We're going to save all these communities because we're rising to a new level.” said Chuck Nelson
Brandon Nida, of Salt Rock, W.Va., spoke to the importance of standing with the people of Blair, WV., “The Coal Companies threw everything they had at us but we're here. Their power is waning. They're running scared because this is a turning point. Mountaineers are always free. We now have a community space here, we're going to be organizing here and be a thorn in the companies' side.”