Archive for June, 2011

Acorn Rallies to Save Blair Mountain

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Despite the project of Acorn community encompassing enough engaging and essential endeavors to keep us indefinitely busy, many members here are deeply committed to activist causes.  When word of the March to Blair Mountain reached us, nine out of twenty people here quickly signed up to participate, along with a small group of Twin Oakers.

Blair Mountain is the site of the 1921 historic battle between coal companies and pro-union coal miners.  With between 10,000 and 15,000 participants clashing against heavily armed police and coal operator backed union busters, it was one of the largest armed insurrections in United States history.

In 2009, Blair Mountain was enlisted as a historical site, which contemporary coal companies instantly sought to reverse.  The political and legal clout of coal companies quickly had it unlisted and seized control of the property, slating it as the sight of a future mountain top removal operation.

In response, a coalition of anti-mountaintop removal groups organized a reenactment of the historical march of Blair Mountain with hopes of raising awareness of the historical and environmental richness of Blair Mountain.  Since the full length march was scheduled to take five days, us Acornistas weren’t able to get away from the garden and business that long, but we were able to meet up with the marchers for the final day of rallying and marching.

To make the five and a half drive there, we left Friday after lunch to get there in time to set up tents.  In order to encourage an early bedtime (we were forewarned that we would all be woken up at 5:30 AM), dinner and speakers for that night were combined.  My favorite speech from the night will probably be available soon–stay posted for a link.

The food tent Friday night

True to their word, with a bit of overzealous anxiety, someone was outside our tent at the ungodly hour of 5:15 AM, mechanically saying, “Wake up” every 30 seconds or so.

Our groggy group of campers

Later on that morning, all the marchers and ralliers convened in one spot for more speakers, music, food, and whatever preparations we needed for the march up to Blair Mountain–sunscreen, lots of water, signs to hold, and precise instruction as to what to do if we were arrested (the final mile to the battle sight itself is property of the coal companies).

Gathering for the final leg of the march

rallying

banners at the rally

more banners

more banners

By mid-afternoon, all 800 marchers were all lined up and ready to go. As we neared the edge of the property we’d been on for the rally, everyone started chanting, “Stay on the pavement, DON’T TOUCH THE GRASS!!, STAY ON THE PAVEMENT, DON’T TOUCH THE GRASS!!”  Although I initially didn’t know why, it soon became apparent that the road was heading right through the residential area of coal miner families, and that they were frothing at the mouth for any legal opportunity to make our lives difficult, trespassing one inch onto their lawns being their most hopeful possibility.   A few pick-up trucks full of “Friends of Coal” blared country music, most prominently “Kiss my Country Ass.”  A women in the yelled, “But I would never kiss yours, you probably ain’t washed it in a week!”

We proceeded the grueling march up the mountain (read, up), sometimes being forced completely outside the white line into a single file line by a fleet of cop cars.  When we got to the private road that marked the entry to the historic Blair Mountain battle field, all those who couldn’t risk arrest stayed behind.  The rest of us proceeded on, visibly quickening our pace to the yelling, “YOU ARE NOW TRESPASSING, AN OFFENSE PUNISHABLE BY THE LAW.”   We poured over and around the gate that blocked the road, waving our signs and spontaneously erupting into cheers, chants, and song.

We passed the sight of a recent strip mine, for which we all took a moment of silence.

Soon the cops arrived on 4-wheelers and demanded that we leave the premises.

Cops enter the scene

the cops

cops telling us to leave

We hadn’t posted our signs yet, so despite being threatened with arrest, some sunk their signs into the earth, one getting arrested for it.

planting our signs on the way out 

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