12 Arrested as Diné & Appalachians Join St. Louis Residents in Confronting Peabody
Press release from: RAMPS Media press@rampscampaign.
ST. LOUIS, MO — About one hundred protesters are gathered in downtown
St. Louis today outside of the Peabody Coal corporate headquarters. St.
Louis locals were joined by Navajo residents from Black Mesa, Ariz.,
Appalachians from coal-burdened West Virginia, and supporters from across
the United States to demand the cessation of strip mining and
accountability for land and people. Navajo residents of Black Mesa, Don
Yellowman and Fern Benally are demanding to speak with Peabody CEO Greg H.
Boyce and have a letter detailing their concerns. (Read it here.)
Around 12 protesters were arrested for linking arms and refusing to leave Peabody property when Boyce refused to meet with Navajo representatives. Protesters included representatives from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Veterans for Peace, SEIU and other labor unions. Activists dropped from two nearby buildings reading, “Stop the War on Mother Earth. Peabody: Bad for St. Louis, Bad for the Planet” and “Peabody Kills.”
According to eye witnesses, the police used pain compliance pressure points and twisting heads and arrested them. One arrested member of Veterans for Peace was handcuffed, walking compliantly with police and was suddenly thrown to the ground by the police. The rest of the protesters, upset by Peabody’s unresponsiveness and the police violence, took the march into the streets of St. Louis with a banner reading, “St. Louis! Stop Subsidizing the Climate Crisis”. After marching through the streets, the protest returned to Peabody Headquarters and disbursed.
Banners were dropped from two nearby buildings reading, “Stop the War
on Mother Earth. Peabody: Bad for St. Louis, Bad for the Planet” and
Peabody, the largest coal company in the U.S., operates massive strip
mines on Black Mesa, Ariz., ancestral homelands of the Navajo people. Tens
of thousands of Navajo families have been forcibly relocated in order to
clear the land for Peabody’s strip mines; this constitutes the largest
forced relocation of indigenous peoples in the U.S since the Trail of
Tears. To this day, Navajo and Hopi people are engaged in resistance to
the forced relocation and mining practices threaten the land and
livelihood of future generations.
In nearly 45 years of operation, Peabody’s mines on Black Mesa have been
the source of over 325 million tons of carbon dioxide discharged into the
atmosphere#. The strip mines have damaged countless graves, sacred sites,
and homes. 70 percent of a once-pristine desert aquifer has been drained
for coal operations. The remaining groundwater is polluted, causing
devastation to a once-flourishing ecosystem.
“The mine affects lots of ways of life. It’s destroying the places that
have names. Everywhere you go here, every place has a name: names I
learned from my grandparents, names that have existed for hundreds of
years. A lot of those places and knowledge of those places and cultural
values are being destroyed by the mine. It’s destroying our way of life,”
says Gerold Blackrock, a resident of Black Mesa.
Peabody’s strip mines harm the health of communities wherever they
operate, from Black Mesa to Appalachia. Appalachian miners’ hard-earned
healthcare benefits and pensions are threatened by Peabody’s business
practices. “Peabody and Arch dumped their obligations to retired miners
into Patriot. This was a calculated decision to cheat people out of their
pensions,” said retired United Mine Workers of America miner Terry Steele.
“Enabled by the City of St. Louis, Peabody’s corporate executives hide out
in their downtown office building, removed from the destruction they cause
in communities across the nation,” said Dan Cohn, St. Louis resident. In
2010, the Board of Aldermen, in conjunction with the St. Louis Development
Corporation, gave Peabody a $61 million tax break, including $2 million
that was designated for the St. Louis City Public Schools.
“Peabody’s everyday business contributed to this summer’s triple-digit
heat waves and historic drought. St. Louis residents are here today to
stand in solidarity with the other communities that Peabody impacts and
demand that our city stops subsidizing the unjust relocation of indigenous
people and climate change. We need our taxpayer development dollars to be
invested in green jobs, not corporations who have no regard for human
life,” Reggie Rounds, a MORE member, said.
MORE is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would
force the city of St. Louis to divest public money from fossil fuel
corporations and switch over incentives to renewable energy and
sustainability initiatives. The St. Louis Sustainable Energy ballot
initiative has gained the support of numerous local social and
environmental groups, small businesses, and 6th Ward Alderperson candidate
Michelle Witthaus, who was present at today’s protest.
Today’s action is part of a growing movement for indigenous
self-determination, and against exploitative business practices that
destroy communities and land.