Contact: Andrew Munn or Dea Goblirsch 304-513-4710
BELLE, W.Va. - Two young people unfurled a banner which read, “Yes, Coal is Killing West Virginia’s Communities” off of the Walker CAT building in Belle, W.Va. at 12:55 this afternoon. The youth are affiliated with Climate Ground Zero and say they acted in autonomous solidarity with the Senior Citizens March to End Mountaintop Removal, are affiliated with Climate Ground Zero. The marchers passed the Walker CAT building on today’s route.
Gabe Schwartzman, 19, and David German, 18, were arrested by City of Belle Police and cited for trespassing on a structure or conveyance. They were taken to the Magistrate’s Court in Charleston, where they were released at 3:00 p.m on $100 personal recognizance. Steve Walker, CEO of Walker Machinery Company, went to the police station while Schwartzman and German were being cited for trespass.
At the behest of Walker CAT, the City of Belle Police Department detained the march at 3:20 p.m. Officers took the IDs of three marchers who walked onto the business’ property to speak with security. According to Roland Micklem, one of the three, he entered Walker CAT’s property to convey his convictions to security guards.
“I wanted to contact somebody with an opposing perspective and demonstrate to him that we have no hostility towards them as fellow humans; we have a serious point of disagreement, however, on the use of their machinery to destroy God’s mountains for profit,” Micklem said. The marchers moved off of the property when asked to leave.
Walker CAT’s Earthmoving Division is one of the main suppliers of equipment to mountaintop removal sites in West Virginia. They are also at the forefront of pro-coal advertising campaigns. In addition to television, print, and billboard adds, Walker CAT produced “Mountaintop Mining Viewpoint,” a brochure aimed at influencing public opinion in support of MTR. The twenty-eight page document makes claims that mountaintop removal coal mining is necessary, cheap and environmentally responsible.
While speaking to marchers and supporters at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charleston last night, Larry Gibson of Kayford Mountain stated, “They keep saying coal is cheap. Ask someone who lost someone in the mining industry how cheap it is. We know better than that in the coal fields.”
The March received its first physical harassment today. At 2:00 p.m. a driver threw a cup of water on Micklem, who says he “took it in stride.” The march has attracted both support and derision from passerbys. Marchers who so choose still plan to commit an act of non-violent civil disobedience to protest mountaintop removal at the conclusion of the march at Mammoth Coal Company on Monday afternoon.