Coal Tattoo

The latest YouTube video to emerge from West Virginia’s coalfields isn’t worthy of being embedded in Coal Tattoo. Click here to watch it if you must. But beware it’s full of F-bombs and other language not appropriate for a family blog.

Apparently, a group of folks dressed as coal miners showed up Saturday afternoon on Kayford Mountain,  where mountaintop removal opponent Larry Gibson was hosting his annual 4th of July festival. They appeared to have had a little too much to drink, and decided to mark Independence Day by celebrating their freedom to look like idiots — cursing, threatening and flipping off the environmentalists who were trying to enjoy a little fellowship.

Luckily, it looks like it didn’t get any worse. I haven’t heard of any physical violence or of anyone getting hurt.  I put a call in to the West Virginia State Police, who apparently responded to a complaint about the incident. I haven’t heard back from the State Police, but I’m told things were pretty much over by the time they got there, and no arrests were made.

Back when Massey Energy first geared up for a bigger legal fight against the peaceful protesters who have been trying to shut down its mountaintop removal mines in Raleigh County, I wrote that the company’s lawyers were giving the protesters exactly what they wanted.  And when some protesters were accused by police of shoving their way onto a dragline in Boone County, I wrote that the protesters were giving the coal industry just what they wanted. (Though video released later showed that incident wasn’t nearly as rough as the local sheriff made it sound).So what now? Well, if those guys doing the cussing and flipping off up at Kayford on Saturday were coal miners, they sure gave the environmentalists something to toss around on the Internet to make their case.

West Virginia Blue has already blogged about this, embedding the video and headlining the story, Abusive coal miners crash Independence Day Kayford Fest.  Blogger Clem Guttata West Virginia Blue reader JK  commented:

This is what we’re fighting, folks.

That seems a little unfair. I wouldn’t want to paint all coal miners (assuming these guys were coal miners) with that broad of a brush.  My guess is that most of the miners who didn’t have to work Saturday wanted to rest, or fish, or just spend some time with their families

And I have to say a cringed a bit when I read my friend Paul Nyden’s story Saturday morning, in which environmentalists worried that some miners might show up at the Kayford festival and do exactly what they did — or worse. I can imagine a situation where a few miners who otherwise wouldn’t have even heard about the festival saw that story, read the environmentalists’ fears, and then had a few too many beers and set out to make the story come true.

Of course, I also cringed two weeks ago, when I saw that Massey Energy had allowed its employees and their families to gather outside the company’s Goals Coal Co. operation in Raleigh County to block anti-mountaintop removal protesters from trespassing onto Massey property. The whole setup looked like a recipe for people getting hurt. Luckily, the only real violence was the one Massey supporter who slapped protester Judy Bonds.

The night after that big June 23 protest down at Marsh Fork Elementary School, I wrote these words in reflecting on the face-off between anti-mountaintop removal protesters and Massey Energy workers and their families:

Maybe West Virginia’s political leadership wants this to be fought out in the streets — or, rather, along narrow, two-lane roads that wind through Boone, Logan and Raleigh counties.  Given that the issue has been on the front burner for more than a decade, with little movement toward resolution,  it’s probably understandable that both sides have reached this point.

So I say again: Are the images in this YouTube video really the kind of stuff that West Virginia’s political leaders — all West Virginians, really — want to see flying around the Internet as an example of how we deal with tough issues?

I hope not. This stuff is beneath us, and it’s certainly beneath the importance of the issues that confront us: Global warming, mountaintop removal, the future of coal, diversifying our economy … We ought to be working together to try to solve these things, not lobbing F-bombs at each other on the 4th of July. And our leaders should be taking actions that help resolve this debate, and help West Virginia move forward.