Manchin ‘doing what we can’ for Massey tree-sitters

January 27, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


Photo by Antrim Caskey

After introducing a resolution against congressional action on global warming a day after he met with coalfield residents to hear their concerns about mountaintop removal, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin might find it hard for folks to buy his line that he’s seeking calm in the coalfields.

But maybe that’s what Manchin is trying to do now … The governor has inserted himself  — or perhaps he’s been inserted, I’m not sure which —  into the ongoing dispute between Climate Ground Zero tree-sitters and their supporters, Massey Energy, and the State Police.

I’m told the governor plans a meeting tomorrow morning with the State Police and Raleigh County authorities to discuss concerns expressed by citizen groups that Massey’s security guards are harassing and endangering the protesters.

Recall that three protesters took to the trees at Massey’s Coal River Mountain operations last Thursday, the same day Massey CEO Don Blankenship debated Robert F. Kennedy here in Charleston. One of the three has since come down, but the other two are still there nearly a week later.


But now, Climate Ground Zero and its supporters are pretty upset with the way Massey is treating the uninvited visitors to their mining site.  According to the group:

Since the sitters began their occupation of the trees on Thursday morning, the security guards for Massey Energy – the coal company who owns the Bee Tree Mine – have been blasting air horns mounted just below the sitters’ platforms.  At night, the horns are accompanied by flood lights. (see Climate Ground Zero photo, above)


At one point, security personnel tied a rope to a thinner tree next to the one occupied by Nitchman, and repeatedly pulled and released the rope so that it would hit the bottom of Nitchman’s platform.


Climate Ground Zero has been urging its supporters to bombard Manchin’s office with phone calls, asking him to tell the state policy to put a stop to this sort of activity at the protest site.

Matt Turner, Gov. Manchin’s communications director, told me a little while ago the governor has been working the phones on this and trying to come up with some sort of resolution:

We’ve been doing what we can. The governor has been in touch to see what we can do to resolve it.

Stay tuned …

8 Responses to “Manchin ‘doing what we can’ for Massey tree-sitters”

  1. Dave Rao says:

    Maybe MoJo is finally learning that Mountains don’t grow on Trees.

  2. Andrew says:

    I am glad to see that the abuse of the tree sitters is getting some attention and traction with the governor. Of course it is important that the rights and basic safety of non-violent protesters is safeguarded, and it makes a lot of sense that Climate Ground Zero would put a lot of energy into making sure that those taking action under their name are not subject to the noise abuse and other tactics Massey security has used on both the tree sits. However, I am concerned that the take away message of these actions get blurred from the intended statement against mountaintop removal (and hopefully the direct interference with the practice itself) into a message that revolves more around the protesters themselves.

    Perhaps this is inevitable in long, confrontational actions where protesters are in close quarters with miners.

  3. Morgan says:

    I admire the governor stepping in and wanting to talk to the Climate Ground Zero team. However, the group has stated that actions aren’t going to stop until Mountaintop Removal does. Any attempts by the governor to smooth over the situation, unless he moves to end MTR, aren’t going to resolve the issue.

  4. scott 14 says:

    While I agree that the safety of all involved is paramount. These people are putting themselves into a dangerous situation. When they come down, and they will, they should be treated like the common criminals they are.

  5. roselle says:

    Mountain top removal creates a dangerous situation for all of us, especially the communities that live below the mines. No matter what the EPA decides, overburden, sludge and mine waste is not fill, and cannot be lawfully discharged into our waterways. Those who do this, and those who allow this to happen are in violation of the law. I would say that any criminal activity engaged in by the tree sitters pales in comparison to the all to common crime of blasting away the mountains and burying the streams. Everyday the newspaper is filled with stories about common criminals. I think Amber and Eric are very uncommon. No one has ever done what they are doing now, and the blasting has been stopped in at least one location while more people are learning about the lawlessness in the West Virginia coal fields.

  6. […] generally de-escalate the situation. Earlier this week, he met with community members and called for calm in the coalfields, stating that the state “will not tolerate any violence on any side.” He didn’t […]

  7. […] generally de-escalate the situation. Earlier this week, he met with community members and called for calm in the coalfields, stating that the state “will not tolerate any violence on any side.” He didn’t […]

  8. […] Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » Manchin ‘doing what we can’ for Massey tree-sitters – view page – cached Amber Nitchman, 19, of Lancaster, Pa., is one of the tree-sitters at a Massey Energy mountaintop removal operation. […]