State Police arrested four members of Climate Ground Zero after the protesters made their way onto the Marfork Coal Co. property and chained themselves to a highwall miner in yet another non-violent protest against mining in the mountains of West Virginia
West Virginia State Troopers arrested Kathryn Huszczahe, Colin Flood, Sophie Kern and James Tobias last week according to Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero. The four remain in jail refusing to pay the bond necessary to be released. Roselle said they want to be released on their own recognizance and are willing to sit in jail while they await the courts decision on the outcome of this most recent non-violent protest.
Sgt. D.W. Bennett said State Police received a complaint from Marfork Coal Co. saying that protesters had chained themselves to a highwall miner on the property. The mine is a subsidiary of Massey Energy and is located in Raleigh County West Virginia.
When Trooper 1st Class J.L. Mitchell responded to the complaint he observed two people, Kathryn Huszcza and Colin Flood, chained to the miner and two others, Sophie Kern and James Tobias, standing in support, Bennett said. Mitchell ordered the two protesters to free themselves, they refused to obey the troopers orders.
Bennett said Mitchell then arrested Kern and Tobias and transported them to the Whitesville detachment and then to Southern Regional Jail. Huszcza and Flood were separated from the miner and transported to the Whitesville detachment by Massey security, according to Bennett.
Roselle said the four were charged with obstruction, trespassing, conspiracy and two of them had an additional charge of littering for leaving the sign that read "Save Coal River Mountain" on the ground. All four remain in the Southern Regional Jail, Flood and Huszcza on $2,500 bond each and Kern and Tobias on $3,500 each, according to jail records.
According to Climate Ground Zero, the four engaged in last weeks protest to bring attention to the many local resources that will be lost if blasting on Coal River Mountain continues said Mike Roselle.
When asked why they were refusing bond Roselle replied "they were aware that they will have to serve some jail time for this act of civil disobedience based on the outcomes of past arrests. They are choosing to serve their time before they appear in court and anticipating the sentence to include "time served."
Climate Ground Zero is one of the leading groups of activists working in the State of West Virginia trying to stop Mountain Top Removal Mining (MTM) and the destruction of these mountains and streams that are being polluted by the chemicals, waste and sludge resulting from the mining operations.
Roselle said "Massey Coal has created "wanted posters" with his face on them for his part in this major effort to stop MTM. He said while the coal miners, workers and community in general have treated them with respect, Massey Coal has not and despite their efforts Massey Coal Company continues to violate federal laws to make a profit in the coalfields of West Virginia."
Photojournalist Antrim Caskey, who has been documenting this work for four years in the mountains of WV said "Mountain Top Mining is like "strip mining on steroids." She said 30 to 40 activists are staying on the shared housing site where Climate Ground Zero has four homes to occupy at what is called the "Peace Camp." She echoed the words of Roselle and said that overall the community has embraced them, the majority are cordial, friendly and positive about their work to stop this mining that is damaging the future of citizens of the state and claiming many innocent lives."
Caskey said they work, shop, eat and live together in the same rural communities as the people who depend on their jobs with the coal mining to survive. Following the disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine this past spring that claimed 29 lives, the miners and their families could see that the activists, reporters and photojournalists like herself are there for the people. Most are grateful someone is watching out over them and putting their best interests first, unlike Massey Coal.
When asked how the death of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd will effect coal mining operations Caskey replied, "Sen. Byrd, who was raised in Raleigh County and he will be greatly missed, Byrd had come around in his position on coal, coal companies and mining operations."
"He could see the environmental damage and had been touched many times by the loss of life of people he represented and was trying to make changes right up till the final day of his life."
She said "Byrd's death was a huge blow to their efforts, he had seen the truth, had been shown how laws were being broken each day by companies like Massey and had witnessed the visceral contempt for the environment and the environmentalists as well as for the government and most importantly for the miners and their families."
The future of the coal mining operations and companies in West Virginia and in Washington is, at least for now, unknown.