The Road to Blair Mountain, Boone County, West Virginia – one of the many places in this country where justice seems to go to die.
After weeks of negotiated agreements, last night the side of the law came down against the side of right and morality when the Boone County commissioner forced approximately 300 participants in the March on Blair Mountain off of the county land at John Slack Park. This happened around 9:30pm, after the camp had been pitched for hours, dinner was still being served, and many marchers were looking to bed down for the night after an 11 mile march.
I hold no anger at the men in drill sergeant hats and spiffy tight uniforms for forcing us to find somewhere else to sleep. I know they were only following orders. Many of them may hold a misunderstanding of what we are trying to accomplish on the march. We are not out to completely end our nation’s addiction to coal. What we are trying to do is make a stand against mountain top removal — the most destructive and apocalyptic form of coal mining ever devised — and preserve Blair Mountain as a symbol of the battles and struggles in people’s lives which have taken place in the name of this form of coal extraction. I am sure that there must have been at least a few officers who felt terrible about the orders they were asked to carry out.
You see, we are a good people here in the southern mountains of West Virginia. Lack of abundant opportunities has forced many of us to make terrible choices, between working on a mountaintop mine, or leaving the state for good. And for so many of these kind-hearted and hard working people, leaving just isn’t an option. Some rise up to fight that status quo, and many more get tugged along in the current, caught in the black, poisonous waters that flow down from the strip mines of coal field politics.
Despite the efforts of some behind the scenes powers, this march will go on. We are going to Blair, deep in the heart of Logan County, West Virginia. We are rising. And we will meet our fate there – not in Racine, not in Madison, not in Boone County.
And I look forward to the day when someone, like my dear brother-in-law, who was born in Madison, doesn’t have to make that choice to leave or stay, or to have to choose to obey the letter of the law and follow orders given by a shadow government owned by King Coal.