Front Porch Blog

Unequal Justice in the Coalfields

In the long and troubled history of Appalachia’s coal fields, violence between the industry and its critics in the labor and the environmental movements is not unusual. What needs to be understood now, however, is that the cycle of violence is escalating with the strong encouragement of the coal industry.

Just this summer, events caught on video include:
• Coal industry thugs openly threatening to cut children’s throats at a picnic on Kayford Mountain;
• Judy Bonds, a Goldman Prize winner, getting socked in the face by an angry counter-demonstrator;
• Coal miners screaming threats of violence at demonstrators, including NASA scientist James Hanson, movie star Daryll Hannah and former WV Congressman Ken Heckler;
• Someone named “superhippieslayer” on YouTube urging people to shoot and hang environmental activists;

Events have taken such a serious turn that the West Virginia Council of Churches issued a statement this July and asked the governor to step in. Gov. Joe Manchin did make a weak and perfunctory statement that violence would not be tolerated, but no one has been charged for making public death threats, and the counter-demonstrator who attacked Judy Bonds in plain view was given the lightest possible charge. When police protection is needed for demonstrators, it is frequently unavailable.

In contrast, activists arrested in protests are facing criminal conspiracy charges and heavy fines. Journalists who trespass while covering protests are having their cameras and equipment confiscated. Instant police presence at demonstrations is a given.

In short, the West Virginia state government is performing as a subordinate branch of the coal industry, administering unequal justice in an escalating climate of violence.

Dirty Coal Forgeries

Just when we thought the debate over “clean” coal couldn’t get any dirtier, the news breaks that pro-coal lobbying groups have been caught forging letters to Congress. They have opposed carbon trading in the name of civil rights groups, university women and the aging, appropriating their logos and making up names of staff members.

The harder investigators look at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and its subcontractors, the more forgeries they are finding. Its nothing less than an Anti-American Corrupt and Corrosive Conspiracy Effort (AACCCE).

Even with all the heated rhetoric this summer, such as the nonsense about the elderly facing “death committees” under reformed health care, the ACCCE forgeries have registered a new low on the American political barometer.

ACCCE has done our country, our communities, and our very democracy a great disservice. This is a time of unprecedented change in Appalachia, and as our coal supplies decline and our economy diversifies, we need to shareideas on how best to shape the future of our region.

We all need to do so in the spirit of honest public debate and vigorous collaboration with fellow citizens. Our future is too important to be decided by fraud and forgeries.

Molly is passionate about sharing the environmental and cultural stories of our region, and serves as AV's Editorial Communications Coordinator and Editor of The Appalachian Voice publication.