It’s been five days since authorities escorted Josh Graupera and Isabelle Rozendaal away from the Bee Tree site on Coal River Mountain where the two were supporting the ongoing tree sit against mountaintop removal. Since their arrest and incarceration for trespass and conspiracy, the two have been released from jail at a bail of $1,500 each, and not without special thanks to those who contributed donations at http://www.climategroundzero.org!
Climate Ground Zero activists and others are initiating a call-in to Massey Energy headquarters in Richmond today regarding the safety of the tree sitters and the overall dangers of MTR. More information is available at the end of this post.
Josh Graupera is a 19-year-old resident of Lancaster, PA, and has agreed to share some of his experiences about the action and his arrest. Josh explained the role he and Isabelle shared in the action was to “ensure the safety of the sitters, and communicate with first-responding security and police, making sure confrontations don’t escalate out of hand.”
Josh and Isabelle fulfilled their duties and helped keep the confrontation between the sitters, miners, and police officers safe even when tense moments arose. Josh described the situation of being confronted and told to leave by three miners:
We sat under one of the sitter’s trees and ensured the miners that we would not leave or put our friends in harm. One miner threatened to move us by force, denying the fact that Massey told its workers they were not to touch us. I began to think they were going to follow through and carry us out until David started filming our confrontation, telling the workers that they were on camera. I think if it weren’t for the camera, they would have carried us off the site.
The cameraman was David Aaron Smith, a 23-year-old resident of Louisiana and was able to film the confrontation from 60 feet above in his tree. David, Amber Nitchman, 19, and Eric Blevins, 28, are still perched in their trees. Despite Massey security’s incessant use of air horns and flood lights the three sitters are holding strong.
After Josh’s arrest Thursday afternoon, he and Isabelle were brought to the Magistrate’s Office and later to separate holding cells at the Southern Regional Jail. He found the processing and holding conditions to be unpleasant, but still firmly believed that he “committed a crime in order to prevent a larger one from happening.”
Having a first hand look at the land he helped protect from the blasting, he said, “The site of the tree sit rests on the edge of a high wall, looking down into a mine site and sludge impoundment. The remaining parts of the mountain and forestry looked like they had been cut cleanly with a butter knife. The sludge impoundment glistened silver and black in the sunlight, which amazed and discomforted me.”
The sludge impoundment Josh referred to is the Brushy Fork Impoundment that currently contains about 6 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry and is separated from the communities below by a leaking dam. Massey’s own estimates predict that 998 people would die if the dam were to burst.
“I knew that until I took an active role in the struggle to end MTR, I was passively condoning the poisoning and displacement of countless communities and in the obliteration of one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on this continent.”
Josh felt reassured about his role in the action when he received moral support from some West Virginians, including one of his cellmates: “When I told my cellmate about why I was in there, I didn’t expect him to be so receptive to the story, but he was, and was honored to meet a ‘real tree hugger.’”
Josh wishes the best for his friends still up in the tree and hopes that the security officers will stop harassing them. To help the sitters and miners who are subjected to the incessant noises, call Massey Energy’s headquarters and demand they stop illegally harming the sitters with multiple large air horns blaring just beneath the platforms, and to immediately cease blasting on Coal River Mountain. For more information, including updates and videos on the tree sit, visit www.climategroundzero.org.
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Can you call Massey headquarters in Richmond and ask them to stop illegally harassing the sitters? For a call script and phone numbers, go here here. [http://climategroundzero.net/2010/01/callmasseyonjan25/]
Thank you for standing up for our tree sitters and for Coal River Mountain! Now help spread the word!
Please help make the tree sit and the campaign a success by:
- Donating to the legal fund
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