Monday, June 13, 2011

March on Blair Mountain

All photos by Madeline Collins.
This past Saturday was the final day of the March on Blair Mountain. The march, organized by Appalachia Rising with support from groups like the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council, spanned five days and over fifty miles. Activists began on June 6 in Marmet, West Virginia, and marched to Blair, West Virginia, on June 11, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain and to protest the destruction of Blair Mountain by mountaintop removal (MTR) mining. I joined four other people from Greenpeace for the last day of the march and for the rally on the top of Blair Mountain.

Some background on the Battle of Blair Mountain: in the summer of 1921, 10,000 to 15,000 coal miners marched that same fifty-mile route from Marmet to Blair to fight for the right to unionize in southwestern West Virginia coal mines. The miners met with machine guns, bombs, and poison gas wielded by state police, the National Guard, and, eventually, the U.S. army. Hundreds were wounded and at least sixteen miners were killed. The battle was the biggest armed conflict in U.S. history since the Civil War and is considered to have been a major catalyst for the twentieth century labor movement in the United States.

If the coal companies have their way, though, this historic site will be obliterated by mountaintop removal (MTR) mining. As I described in an earlier blog post about the Congressional hearings regarding EPA’s ability to regulate MTR, this unbelievably destructive form of surface mining involves the blasting away of a portion of a mountain to expose the coal seams underneath. Before the explosives are used, the land is deforested, and afterward, the extra soil, known as overburden, is often simply dumped into nearby valleys, creating valley fills.

Lots more after the jump...