CHIEF LOGAN STATE PARK — Members of several coal support groups rallied Saturday morning at Chief Logan State Park to film interviews with local coal supporters to counteract the media released by the anti-coal group Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS) last week.
RAMPS stated that more than 50 protesters shut down Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine in Boone County on Saturday, July 28. The demonstration resulted in the arrests of several of the protesters. One protester has alleged that he received a beating by West Virginia State Police and is demanding a federal investigation.
The Friends of Coal, Family and Friends of Coal, Citizens for Coal and several other groups say the claims made by RAMPS are false.
“We want to speak the truth,” said Billie Erlewine Epperhart. “What they are showing is footage of some of the miners at their worst. They are not showing us handing out water… they’re not showing the state troopers handing out water to them. They’re saying the state troopers put them in perilous danger, but they had coolers on the front of their trooper cars going around handing out water to them… handing out food.
“Our mission that day was to engage them in conversation and say ‘why are you here?’ and to educate them. They are willing to give up their freedom for something they really and truly don’t know anything about. I am willing to sit down with them and educate them about the mining process, the permitting process and the reclamation process.
“They don’t realize that even when we shut down a strip mine or surface mine that for five years that water is monitored. We have to show receipts for the seeds that we buy … to make sure we are putting certain trees back in place… whatever is the requirement set by the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection). I wanted to educate them and that was not accomplished with their actions at Hobet. If they were here for a peaceful protest and open lines of communication, then they would have continued the discussion at Kanawha State Forest and not enable them to use that as a ploy to do illegal activity at Hobet.
“I wanted to put it all out there, the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Epperhart. “I wanted to show that they were not mistreated.”
Dennis Adkins with Friends of Coal also followed the protesters from Kanawha State Forest to Hobet on July 28.
“Those people were told not to enter the property,” said Adkins. “They disregarded that notice and they broke the law by going on there. The police did a phenomenal job of protecting them from the dangers of being on a surface mine. There are dangers at the site, from moving equipment to climbing a spoil peak with loose dirt. Normal people who have any knowledge wouldn’t do that.
“But these people are trained to do the things they did. The state police and the county deputies did a phenomenal job of trying to keep them out of harm’s way. I appreciate that because we weren’t out there to destroy lives, we were out there educate people to our cause and to impede them from interfering with our way of life.
“I think everything went real well. There was no body abused and there was no one hurt,” said Adkins. “That is the main thing.”
“I call them eco-terrorist,” said Doug Killen, an employee of Hobet and a UMWA representative. “I don’t see them planting trees. I don’t see them doing anything for the environment.
“I rode up the hill with the deputies and I watched Mr. Steele being uncooperative. State police asked him for his identification and he said ‘find it.’ State troopers were gathering identification and all the others were fairly nice, but Dustin wanted to be a hard wad. And they (state police) were still nice to him.
“I was there through the whole thing. When they pulled them off the explosive truck, which is a federal offense because that is homeland security. I think it had four cases of dynamite in it and about six cases of blasting caps. I don’t know which one it was, but they had their hands in with the dynamite. If they knew what they were doing, they could have caused a disaster that you would have felt in Madison,” said Killen.
“It would make sense to me to make trespassing with the intent of disrupting commerce, or more specifically, the production of natural resources, a felony,” said Rick Abraham, a local coal operator. “Punishable with not less than two years in prison and a fine of a $100,000. As a citizen, and an American, you have the right to work and use our resources for all our benefit. We do not need outsiders coming in here telling us what we need to do with our land. We will decide what we do with our land, not people from California. They need to worry about their own land… they have their own problems.”
Abraham said everyone needs to look at mining today, not from 30 years ago.
“We can go back 30 years in a lot of industries and find fault,” said Abraham. “We’re not living in the Battle of Blair Mountain. This is 2012, look at what we do today, not what we did yesterday. A lot of the things that is brought up today has no effect whatever on human health; one mainly, selenium. If you don’t have selenium in your body you will die. The only effect of that portrayed today is to the spine of a fish. That selenium may curve the spine of a fish. I don’t find that any reason to not get up and go to work. In fact, I find it makes the fish fit the frying pan better.”
“I would like for everyone who supports coal and the coal industry, and the vendors, and the nurses and the children in the hospital and the schools to please join a support group,” said Adkins. “Our numbers matter. Unmistakenably, we are in a war and we have to be an army. Just stand up for coal.”
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