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News :: Environment : Organizing : Politics
Non-Violent Activists Protest Mountain Top Removal, Meet With Police Brutality
15 Aug 2005
For the last few months a national mobilization called Mountain Justice Summer has been underway in Southern Appalachia to raise awareness about the devestating effects mountain top removal mining and put an end to this devestating practice. Boston Indymedia received a report this morning that MJS activists were set to undertake the first ever mountain occupation to protest and take direct action against mountain top removal.

Here is how it went
Click on image for a larger version

Click on image for a larger version

Click on image for a larger version

When the sun rose over Appalachian Mountains this morning to greet activists associated with Katuah Earth First! And Mountain Justice Summer were already waiting there to greet it, blockading access to an area National Coal is set to mine. The occupation was an attempt to “create a no blast zone across" Zeb Moutain in Tennesssee, and prevent the companyl from utilizing environmentally devastating ‘mountain top removal methods’ to extract coal from the mountain.

By mid morning “the blockade was violently taken down by police and coal company representatives,” according to Monica Moquee of Mountain Justice Summer.

According to Moquee two women locked down to a disabled vehicle blockade the haul road leading to the mine and one perched on a 40 foot tripod to block entrance to the mine.

Others were planning to lock down to machinery in the area, but, Moquee said, “by the time they got there police were swarming the place.” 15 folks were on hand to support those locked down.

This support was reportedly integral in protecting the lives of those locked down when, at around 5:45 am, “A man in a light blue shirt threatened the lives of activists and attempted to ram them with his vehicle.”

Activists had to create a human barricade to protect those locked down and the group’s worker liaison, responsible for communicating with National Coal employees about the action, “had to repeatedly remind him that murder is illegal.”
Moquee said that the man was not with the police and identified him as an employee of National Coal. “The threat of aggression was really intimidating,” She said, “especially since the police were allowing it.”

According to an early press release announcing the action activists were, “using creative non violent tactics to bring attention to the modern atrocity of mountain top mining.”

“These drastic tactics are being used because strip mining companies are not allowed to use explosives when unauthorized people are nearby.” The release said.

The process of mountain top removal has been referred to as ‘strip mining on steroids’.

According to the Mountain Justice Summer web-site (, mountain top removal coal mining involves blasting up to 800 feet off of the top mountains, the rubble is then commonly shoved into an adjacent valley. These ‘valley fills’ have, to date, “buried over 1,200 miles of biologically crucial Appalachian headwaters streams. Aquifers and underground springs are destroyed in this process making it difficult to impossible for forests to return to the fragmented piles of rubble that were once lush and diverse ecosystems.”

The site also claims that the heavy handed use of machinery and explosives has enabled coal companies to reduce employment from 150,000 workers in the 1960’s to about 15,000 today. The loss of vegetation on mountain slopes has lead to intense flooding which has resulted in 1.5 billion dollars worth of property damage in West Virginia since 2001.

This accelerated form of mining has also produced massive amounts of coal slurry. According to the MJS site, “The slurry is a witch’s brew of water used to wash the coal for market, carcinogenic chemicals used in the washing process and coal fines (small particles) laden with all the compounds found in coal, including toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury.”

The ‘impoundments’ where this slurry is stored, are subject to regular breaches that have the potential to literally “choke the life out of streams. One ‘spill’ of 306 million gallons that sent sludge up to fifteen feet thick into resident’s yards and fouled 75 miles of waterways, has been called the southeast’s worst environmental disaster.” The site says.

Although the occupation was broken by 11 am, with 10 protestors arrested, the time line of events posted on does note that there was some positive dialogue between 40-50 miners and activists.

A later press release describes police disruption of the occupation in violent and distressing terms:

“Police pushed down a tripod with an individual in it.” The release says, “Then the police allowed a company employee full access to the protestors. The employee proceeded to kick one of the protestors in the stomach and with the assistance of police shook and moved a blockade while someone was locked into it resulting in massive bruising up and down the arms of one individual. The officers then used pain compliance over and over again on activists who were locked into the blockade. Finally the police turned the cutting equipment over to the same employee who had attacked one of the protestors and allowed him to cut them out.”

Bail has been set at $10,000 for all ten of the arrested protestors. Mountain Justice Summer is gladly accepting donations at

In the mean time MJS/KEF activists are in the process of coming to consensus on how to proceed. They are still committed to protecting Zeb Mountain from National Coal. “The action is not over,” Moquee said.

Related stories on this site:
Wednesday: EMERGENCY BENEFIT for Mountain Justice Summer
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Re: Non-Violent Activists Protest Mountain Top Removal, Meet With Police Brutality
15 Aug 2005
We had a video in Atlanta sponsored by the Atlanta Independent Media Center and Radio Free Georgia 89.3 FM. The video attracted 35 people and the tpoic was about Appalachian people, struggles and history. It was seen also on Public Broadcasting Service. I spoke at the end of the evening about Black Lung (which kills 2,000 miners a year and the need for safety equipment) I also spoke abou a key way to limit Mountain Range Removal--namely improving conservation of electricity with better lightbulbs, more home insulation and better appliances. This will create jobs and preserve our lands. For Congress of the Streets (COTS) This is Paul Hays--By the way I shared space with the Sierra Club and mentioned the Mountain Justice Summer's NonViolent works.
Re: Non-Violent Activists Protest Mountain Top Removal, Meet With Police Brutality
16 Aug 2005
My friend Catherine Pancake has been working on a dopcumentary about appalachain mountaintop removal for years. She grew up in West Virginia. . . You can look at a preview of it here:
Re: Non-Violent Activists Protest Mountain Top Removal, Meet With Police Brutality
22 Aug 2005
Hey Katt - thanks for the mention. My movie, Black Diamonds will include licensed footage of this action in Tennessee. It is the first direct action in the movement meant to block an entire mountain from mining. I have been tracking and documenting the movement, damages from MTR, and its political ramifications since 2000. Black Diamonds will be released Fall 05 - keep an eye out.