September 16, 2009

Tree sit security guards come forward about mistreatment of sitters and workers

ROCK CREEK, RALEIGH, W.Va.—Two people who worked as security guards, two weeks ago at the strip mining tree sit on Coal River, have come forward about TMK Security’s mistreatment of them and the sitters during the week-long occupation. Chris Carey, 26, and Patrick Curry, 18, came forward because TMK was subjecting the sitters to verbal and psychological harassment, verbal assault and sleep deprivation, and working the guards too long and deceived them about the situation. Carey was fired after coming and and Curry walked off the job.

Carey and Curry gave a one-hour interview on film, the full length of which is available at http://blip.tv/file/2547139. A 10-minute highlight reel is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0y7HowFA9iA. Both are no longer employed by Delbarton, W.Va.-based TMK.

“They wasn’t doing anything. They wasn’t cussing anybody, they wasn’t assaulting anybody, they wasn’t doing anything to anyone,” Curry said. “They had no right, the miners came down there and after they was throwing those rocks, that there told me that they were ready to do anything and that’s when we moved our posts a little close to the tree.”

“I served my country so people like Laura and Nick could do what they are doing and I totally respect them for that,” Carey said. “These people are truly concerned about the citizens here and the environment and you want to put them in jail, and the EPA should’ve been doing this job and the DEP should’ve been taking care of this. But when people don’t do their jobs, it’s up to the citizens to stand up and do something about it, and they get arrested… It’s not right, it’s not what these men over in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for. I’d be disgusted if I came home and this is what I saw.”

Laura Steepleton and Nick Stocks climbed 80 feet up a pair of tulip poplars, within 300 feet of blasting and 30 feet of the Massey Energy Edwight Surface Mine. They unfurled two banners from their treetop platforms: “Stop Mountain Top Removal” and “DEP – Don’t Expect Protection.” Blasting is prohibited when people are within such proximity, as Mining Safety and Health Administration regulations require that people not be hurt in the course of blasting and that non-blasting employees all be cleared from the area.

“The security guards that came forward are my inspiration for humanity. Those two and a few other people from TMK Security were actually concerned for our safety and acted as conscientious human beings. They were given orders by head security to intimidate us and keep us from sleeping, and the tactics that were utilized did not have our safety in mind whatsoever,” Steepleton said. “I only felt secure when those two guards and a few others were on duty. I want to thank them for standing up for what they believed in. They were my heroes!”

Steepleton and Stocks came down after being threatened with chainsaws and enduring five days of psychological torture, sleep deprivation tactics and verbal assault. They were both charged with trespass after being asked to leave, obstruction and littering. Their bail was initially set at $25,000 each, but was reduced the next day to $1,000 each and both are now out of jail.

The interview was filmed and conducted by Jordan Freeman, who recently finished his work on the new film, Coal Country.