14 Kentuckians Stay At Governors Mansion Over the Weekend

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

Action will grow with Monday’s “I Love Mountains Day” in Frankfort

1) Check out the GREAT news on the legal front from our River Keeper team.

2) You can follow a live-feed from the KFTC blog.

3) Our friend Silas House has the following update…

FRANKFORT – Fourteen protestors remain in the office of the Kentucky state governor this weekend in an unprecedented and historic effort to bring attention to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Gov. Steve Beshear invited the protesters to stay after they said they would not leave his office until they were either physically removed or until he reconsidered his position on MTR.

The group are now extending an invitation to the Governor and the First Lady to join them and continue the conversation.

All of the protesters are from Kentucky. Those remaining in the governor’s office include Wendell Berry, 76, the acclaimed writer who has been a leader in environmental issues for the past fifty years; Beverly May, 52, a nurse practitioner who was the subject of Deep Down, a documentary about MTR that was shown on PBS; Mickey McCoy, 55, former educator and mayor from Martin County, where more than 300 million gallons of toxic sludge were released into the water supply in 2001; and Stanley Sturgill, 65, a former underground coal miner and former MSHA inspector.

Also in the office are Lisa Abbott, 40, a community organizer and mother of two; Chad Berry, 47, a writer and historian; Teri Blanton, 54, a grandmother of three; Doug Doerrfeld, 60, Kevin Pentz, 38, a community organizer; Herb E. Smith, 58, a documentary filmmaker; Rick Handshoe, 50, a retired Kentucky State Police employee; John Hennen, 59, a history professor at Morehead State University; and Martin Mudd, 28, a grad student at the University of Kentucky, and Tanya Turner, 24, a community organizer.

Two of the protesters, writers Silas House and Jason Howard, who had been acting as media liaisons, left the capitol late last night when it became too difficult to communicate with media from within the office.

“We call upon Gov. Beshear to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the special interests of an abusive industry,” the group said in a joint statement.

All of those remaining spent the night sleeping on the floor. A donation of pillows managed to get into the Capitol before the doors were locked at 4:30 on Friday afternoon.

This is the first sit-in of its kind in the state’s history.

People across the nation have been sending support to the group via the Internet. A couple from Florida sent the group six pizzas, which the Kentucky State Police guarding the capitol allowed to be delivered. Gifts—including artwork and coffee—have also begun to arrive at the capitol. The group shared their pizza with Kentucky State Police officers and the late-night custodial staff.

MTR is a controversial form of coal mining that has gained more attention over the last several years. The EPA has recently started to crack down on permits for MTR, which led Kentucky Gov. Beshear to recently tell the EPA to “get off our backs” in his State of the Commonwealth address earlier this month. Beshear has filed a lawsuit against the EPA.

The group has been incorrectly identified as being “anti-coal” but say they are there to protest MTR. The group is an independent coalition of citizens—most of them from the coalfields—and do not represent any particular organization.

An unrelated MTR protest that had already been planned is being staged on the capitol steps on Monday at noon. The annual event, I Love Mountains Day, will include a mile-long march and a rally featuring Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-D). Previous speakers at the event include actress Ashley Judd and country music singer Kathy Mattea.

Gov. Beshear met with the group for about twenty minutes and declared that he would continue his lawsuit against the EPA and made no commitments to do anything about MTR. The governor did, however, agree to visit Eastern Kentucky at an undetermined time. The protestors remain committed to holding him to this promise and are extending an invitation to the governor and the first lady to join them in the office.
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Contact: Lisa Abbott 859.200.5159 (inside the Governor’s Office)
Silas House 606.344.0662 (media liaison)
Jason Howard 606.224.1208 (media liaison)
Chad Berry 859.779.1594 (inside the Governor’s Office)
Lora Smith 606.524.4074 (media liaison)

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14 Kentuckians Stay At Governors Mansion Over the Weekend

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