HELP: Four Defendants Being Sued for Tree-Sit on Coal River Mountain

“I refuse to attend a hearing that violates our constitutional rights to have a lawyer. They are suing us to scare us, to intimidate us, and to make sure others don’t follow in our footsteps. But we wont back down. If anything, this is going to only ignite us more” – Becks

Four additional defendants – Eli, Becks, Junior, and squirrel (Catherine-Ann) – are facing a lawsuit for their participation in a month-long tree-sit on the Bee Tree mine site on Coal River Mountain. Those of you who read about the last tree-sit may recall that this site is in close proximity to the Brushy Fork sludge dam, a structurally unsound 5.5+ billion gallon dam of toxic sludge that would engulf entire communities were it to fail. Alpha Natural Resources is aggressively pursuing an injunction against participants in the most recent tree-sit. Further, the Raleigh County Circuit Court has violated their Constitutional right to legal counsel by ordering that the preliminary injunction hearing take place today despite the fact that the defendants have not had time to find an attorney to take on their case. You can support the Alpha Four by donating to the RAMPS legal fund to help them hire a lawyer. Moreover, if you are an attorney or legal researcher who would like to join the defense team please email

Thank you all for your continued support in the fight against mountaintop removal mining - more information to come soon.

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Magistrate Rejects Motion to Compel Irrelevant Testimony – Marfork to Appeal

***The Marfork Five is a group of five protesters facing a federal lawsuit for their participation in a tree-sit on Coal River Mountain in protest of mountaintop removal.***

Magistrate VanDervort recently issued an order denying Marfork’s motion to compel irrelevant testimony in violation of defendants’ 1st and 5th Amendment rights.  Marfork had sought a court order requiring Eric, Amber, David, Josh, and Isabelle to testify to their associations with other anti-mountaintop removal activists in the planning of the tree-sit.  The Magistrate Judge denied this order on grounds of relevancy, as well as sustaining the defendants’ 1st and 5th Amendment objections.  Marfork has filed an appeal and is asking Judge Berger to turn the 1st Amendment clock back 50 years by forcing defendants to answer questions that would violate their right to anonymous association.  To learn more about how you can help the Appalachian Justice Center, the non-profit legal collective fighting Massey Coal in federal court, click here.

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New Data on Dangers of Brushy Fork/Tim DeChristopher Trial

The West Virginia Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) recently responded to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment, providing a list of all safety violations issued regarding the safety of the Impoundment between 2000-2009.  The Impoundment received 20 safety violations over this time period, including one “high” and seven “moderate” cases of negligence that MSHA stated are “reasonably likely” to affect 998 people and could be “reasonably expected” to result in death or permanent disability.  This document further demonstrates the extent to which blasting on the Bee Tree Strip Mine posed a clear and present danger to surrounding communities.  The tree-sit halted blasting within 2,000 feet of Brushy Fork – the Marfork Five are facing continued legal jeopardy for their interference with the absurdly dangerous practice of detonating explosive devices in close proximity to a structurally unsound dam filled with billions of gallons of toxic sludge.

On another note, Tim DeChristopher faces a felony trial for derailing an illegal sale of public land from the outgoing Bush administration to private oil and gas developers.  The trial will begin tomorrow.  To learn more, click here.

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Legal Battles Continue – Funds Needed!

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s national call-in day to Alpha demanding a stop to the lawsuits.  If you missed it, it’s not too late to give them a call.

The legal battle against mountaintop removal continues.  On Thursday, we filed our response to Marfork’s motion for summary judgement, which sought to deny the Marfork Five a right to a jury trial.  We are also awaiting a ruling on our response to Marfork’s motion to compel defendants to testify about their associations with other anti-MTR activists in violation of their 1st right to anonymous association and 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  Similar issues may soon be arising in Independence v. Stone, one of the five SLAPP suits that Massey Energy is currently pursuing against 34 anti-MTR activists.  We are committed to vigorously defending the right to peaceful protest in court, but we need your help.  The Appalachian Justice Center is now accepting donations via paypal; you can also send a check if you prefer.  If you are able, please consider lending your support to those who have put their bodies on the line to put an end to the corporate bombing of Appalachia.

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STOP THE LAWSUITS: National Call-In Day

Tell your friends about the upcoming national call-in day on Wednesday to demand that Alpha Natural Resources – a company that recently purchased Massey Energy – drop their lawsuits against the Marfork Five and 29 other anti-mountaintop removal activists.

Alpha Corporate Headquarters: (276) 619-4410

Sample Call-In Script:

“Hi, I am calling to demand that Alpha stop the lawsuits against 34 peaceful protesters in West Virginia. These lawsuits, which were initiated by Massey Energy before Alpha’s recent purchase of Massey, are an enormous waste of time and money and have only strengthened resolve to fight mountaintop removal.  Alpha must break away from the destructive and abusive practices of Massey by stopping mountaintop removal and dropping these lawsuits as soon as possible.  Otherwise, we will use these lawsuits as an opportunity to draw attention to Alpha’s continued complicity in the destruction of the Appalachian mountains and poisoning of entire communities.”

“Even as it bulldozes and detonates whole mountains, Marfork wants to apply the same approach to destroy the Constitution.” On Friday, we filed our response to Marfork’s motion to compel defendants to answer questions about their associations with 29 individuals named on other injunctions, arguing that their 1st Amendment right to anonymous association and 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination preclude this line of questioning.  Check back for updates as we await additional rulings and continue to respond to Marfork’s attempts at repressing dissent.

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Legal Update/The Last Mountain

Marfork has recently filed a Motion for Summary Judgement, seeking to deny the Marfork Five their right to a jury trial, as well as a Motion to Compel defendants to provide testimony about the planning of the tree-sit, which, if granted, would clearly violate their 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination.  Updates will be posted as we respond.

In other news, tree-sitter David Smith is featured in The Last Mountain, a film about the battle for Coal River Mountain that recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Save Coal River Mountain, Defend the Marfork Five!

This blog will detail the story of the Marfork Five and Marfork Coal Company’s federal lawsuit against five anti-mountaintop removal activists in West Virginia.  Updates coming soon.  For more information on the Marfork Five, click here.

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