NOTE: Thanks to all who responded to the Appalachia Rising appeal for help when marchers were turned back from their planned camp sits and had to be shuttled elsewhere. The appeal raised a much needed $10,000!
Being able to assemble, march, and peacefully call for protection of a historical site is usually not a big deal. But not in West Virginia when the historical site is where scores of miners were killed in 1921, where a coal company now wants to remove the top of the mountain site, and where King Coal still reigns.
On June 6, two hundred and twenty-five folk of all ages set off from Marmet in Boone County, WV, for a 50-mile trek to Blair Mountain in Logan County. Purpose: to commemorate the 90-year anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain by retracing the steps of those miners 90 years ago, and to protest the proposed mining of the historic site and mountain top removal in general.
June 6: Marchers were full of enthusiasm as they started the march. Plan was to end this leg of the march in a state park, but after setting up camp a Boone County commissioner told the group they could not spend the night there. Midnight shuttle back to Marmet. Video.
June 7: Arrangements had been made to spend the second night first at a community college campus and then at a private campground, but when the marchers arrived they were told that security could not be guaranteed, and so again back to the base at Marmet.
June 8: Day went a little more smoothly, although the temperature reached above 90F and the marchers had to be careful not to dehydrate. Video.
June 9: Passed through Madision, the seat of Boone County in the heart of coal country. Still not able to camp at planned campsites, but relied again on shuttles back to base. Number of marchers has reached 350. Daily report..
June 10: The weather was milder than it had been in the past days. Despite an increasing number of counter-protesters, marchers made the final few miles of the march to the town of Blair in good spirits, set up camp and enjoyed a pizza dinner, relaxing and singing. Daily report.
June 11: More than 1,000 people were at the morning rally in Blair, with environmental activist and lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. followed by a host of speakers and musicians, among them West Virginia’s singer Kathy Mattea, novelist Denise Giardina, and Larry Gibson, patriarch of the anti-mountaintop removal movement.
More photos of the march are on flickr.
LOCAL NOTE: The history of the miners battle at Blair Mountain was celebrated in Pittsburgh on Sunday by Larry Gibson at the Battle of Homestead Foundation’s Pump House on Waterfront Road, Munhall.