labor rights

Sat, 2011-06-18 10:51Laurel Whitney
Laurel Whitney's picture

Stories From The March On Blair Mountain - Part 2 The Rally

Continued from Part 1, The March.

By the end of the week, over 300 people had joined the march, some having walked the full 50 miles. The campsite the rally was held at was overlooked by Blair Mountain itself, a large looming reminder of what we were fighting for. As Saturday rolled in, a thousand supporters in total had joined the marchers to walk up the last two miles to the summit, to reclaim the historical landmark.

The day started off with a stack of speakers, musicians, and community members. The crowd heard personal accounts from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who spoke out against mountaintop removal, describing the destruction of mountains, pollution of local waterways, and exploitation of the communities surrounded by mountaintop removal mines. He spoke of how corporate greed reigns and how companies get away with crimes everyday that normal people would be thrown in jail for.

“If you came to the Hudson River, and you tried to fill 25 feet of a Hudson River tributary, we would put you in jail…If you tried to blow up a mountain in the Berkshires, or the Catskills, or the Adirondacks…you would go to jail. It all started here on Blair Mountain, this is the Gettysburg of the union movement in our country.”

Thu, 2011-06-16 14:15Laurel Whitney
Laurel Whitney's picture

Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

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