On January 21st, 2010, five protesters – David Smith, Amber Nitchman, Eric Blevins, Joshua Graupera, and Isabelle Rozendaal – occupied Marfork’s Bee Tree mine site on Coal River Mountain in demonstration against mountaintop removal mining. While Josh and Isabelle were arrested that day, David, Amber, and Eric occupied trees and stopped the blasting on that part of the site for nine days. The tree-sitters demanded an end to the blasting on Coal River Mountain; their action took place in the context of a sustained campaign of civil disobedience to mountaintop removal mining with an emphasis on saving Coal River Mountain from the devastating effects of MTR. Moreover, the tree-sit shut down blasting in close proximity to the Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment, a 5.5 billion+ gallon dam of toxic slurry that would flood entire communities if it were to fail.
While in the trees, Amber, Eric, and David were met with constant harassment from Marfork security. Air horns were blared and floodlights were deployed at all hours throughout the first week of the tree-sit, depriving the sitters of sleep and posing a genuine risk of permanent hearing damage. Despite these abuses, David remained in his tree for five days, and Amber and Eric for nine, preventing blasting from taking place.
The tree-sit received media attention from the Associated Press, Democracy Now!, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Charleston Gazette, and Indymedia, among other local and national sources. Eric has posted a memoir of his experience in the tree-sit. Check out video and pictures from the tree-sit here, as well as a press release archive. Additional information about the tree-sit can be found here and here.