Union-busted Massey Energy workers and anti-coal activists went head to head last week in what was supposed to be a nonviolent march near a Massey coal prep site in West Virginia. But what has received the most attention is in the media is a slap. During the rally, the wife of a Massey worker repeatedly slapped Goldman Prize Winner and Coal River Mountain Watch Co-Director Judy Bonds, and was arrested while protesters cheered in the background. While the seemingly innocuous attack did somehow send Bonds to the emergency room, the real story here is about the Massey supporters.
Massey is engaged in mountaintop removal, considered one of the worst forms of coal mining due to the toxic waste it creates. But is it really surprising that people who live the top coal-producing state—which also happens to rank last in median household income—would defend their coal projects? It doesn't help that out-of-state celebrities like Darryl Hannah and NASA climate scientist James Hansen scientist rank among the protesters. The visiting protesters didn't go ignored by Massey CEO Don Blankenship, who said in a statement, "“While I don’t recall anyone inviting out-of-state environmental protesters from San Francisco and a Hollywood actress to Massey’s property on June 23, I’m more than willing to invite Dr. Hansen to have a factual discussion about coal mining in West Virginia, which provides thousands of jobs in the state and provides low-cost energy to millions of Americans."
And that's the problem. Mountaintop coal mining wipes out mountains, destroys communities, poisons water supplies, and creates coal ash piles so toxic that the Department of Homeland Security keeps the location of the most hazardous coal ash sites secret in an attempt to prevent terrorists from spilling them. But what does that matter to coal miners if they can't keep food on the table? Coal is so entrenched in West Virginia society that it was named the state rock just earlier this month. Unless West Virginia drastically increases renewable energy job opportunities in the state, coal mining supporters will continue to scream at, and probably slap, protesters.
A video of the infamous slap is below.