Poni was one of 20 R.U.M.P.S. (Radicals Undermining Mountain People Security) activists picketing the Hobet mine in West Virginia, this weekend. The group filmed the event, which included tree sitting, carrying banners and singing songs. The completed film was posted on their website and Youtube. "I'm also entering the film into a Lord of the Rings film contest. It's not many people who can say they picketed a Hobbit mine! Dwarves, sure... but Hobbits?!? That was kinda awesome!" said protester and aspiring film maker, Joel Shumate.
Twenty activists from surrounding states entered Southern West Virginia with the express purpose of shutting down one Strip Mine for one day. The group believes strongly that Coal Mining in general; and Strip Mining, specifically, need to be stopped -- at all costs. Even if it means jail time. "It's not that we like going to jail," said Hari Armpeet, this weekends tree-climber. "But the thing is, every day I spend in prison counts towards my college credits."
The groups website [LINK] states:
"If we had been protesting years ago, we could have saved so many lives. We could have saved people from traveling West to start a new life, laying steel for the Intercontinental Railroad, entering the World Wars, building the Hoover Dam or Interstate highways. We might have even stopped America from going to the moon. Nothing good or lasting came from any of those and every one of those events damaged Mother Earth. They created toxic waste and probably killed people in the process.
"Progress is not an excuse to cause one mud slide, endanger one rodent, or cause one spotted owl a minute of discomfort. And let's not forget that all of those activities, including coal mining, has contributed to Global Climate Change."
Local residents and area coal miners came out to see what the fuss was about. Some became agitated and shouted at the out-of-towners, while one father and angry coal miner grabbed a high-powered water hose and drenched a few. "I'm not sorry I did it," Saul Pendleton chuckled when questioned by the police. "They looked like they could use a bath." No charges were filed in the water hose incident.
Others just shook their heads. "It's crazy," says long-time Coal Miner, Gary Duster. "I can't figure them out. They say they oppose Strip Mining because it lets companies hire less miners. Well, if jobs is what they care so dang much about, why are they trying to put me and my friends out of work?"
If the R.U.M.P.S. groups goal seems contradictory, it isn't. A secret internal memo was leaked last week that said, in part,
"Let's be clear -- we want to put an end to strip mining because it is more damaging to Gaia (Greek name for the mythological godess of Earth). We can get local miners to join our protest by telling them strip mining employs less people, than deep drilling. The truth is, we want coal companys to hire more miners and send them deep underground because it is safer for Gaia and more dangerous for them. And when accidents happen (and they will) there will be less miners to damage her." - M.J.
One anti-protest group was led by Boone county resident, Joshua Nelson. Joshua started mining coal in Boone county after serving as an Airman in the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston with the WV Air National Guard. He is also a local youth pastor and very passionate about coal mining and his community. So passionate, he is running for the WV House of Delegates for Boone County.
Beth Holstien, one of the impromptu pro-coal sign holders said, "Joshua found out about the protest coming and decided to do something about it. He could have just sat back and let it happen like everyone else was going to do, but he reminded us our jobs and our community are at stake. He went door to door, got on the radio and rallied everyone to his side. He insisted we stay positive, calm and polite. It was amazing to see. I hear he's running for office, but he never said anything about it that day. I didn't see one political sign or sticker. I'm telling you, Joshua Nelson is the real deal.
Several R.U.M.P.S. members are still trying to make bail. You can find out more on their website www.RUMPSWV.org