As the sun rose on the Frankfort capitol in Kentucky on this beautiful winter morning, 14 anti-mountaintop removal activists were already in meetings on the third day of their historic protest. After marking the second night on the floors and chairs in their Kentucky Rising occupation of Gov. Steve Beshear's office, four of the sit-in participants, including the celebrated author Wendell Berry, appeared at the east capitol entrance for an exclusive interview with Huffington Post blogger Jeff Biggers and Kentucky filmmaker Ben Evans.
"This is neither the beginning nor the end," declared Kentuckians for the Commonwealth activist Teri Blanton.
Noting that "consequences" were already resulting in a bellwether moment for the state of Kentucky and across the coalfields, Wendell Berry called on the nation to do "what is right" and end the egregious practice of mountaintop removal mining.
As part of a growing movement across the central Appalachian coalfields--and the nation--to abolish mountaintop removal, a devastating strip-mining techniques that provides less than 5-8 percent of national coal production and results in irreversible health and environmental damages, the Kentucky Rising participants are calling on the governor "to lead by ending mountaintop removal, by beginning a sincere public dialogue about creating sustainable jobs for our hard-working miners, by putting the vital interests of ordinary Kentuckians above the special interests of an abusive industry."
In anticipation of the planned "I Love Mountains" march on the Capitol on Monday, the Kentucky Rising participants are leading video conferences today on the "History of Unions and Organizing in Eastern Kentucky," with 41-year coal mining veteran Stanley Sturgill, eastern Kentucky nurse Bev May and Appalshop filmmaker Herb E. Smith, and a discussion on "Where the anti-mountaintop removal movement is today and where we need to go," with eastern Kentucky mountain residents and organizers Teri Blanton, Mickey McCoy, Rick Handshoe and Tanya Turner.
Along with Berry, exclusive interviews took place with retired UMWA coal miner and MSHA inspector Stanley Sturgill, Appalachian historian and author Chad Berry, and KFTC organizer Teri Blanton.
Wendell Berry on the urgency of the moment: "We have exhausted all other possibilities."
Wendell Berry on why the sit-in continues:
Former UMWA coal miner/inspector Stanley Sturgill on how strip-mining strips jobs: "Due to mountaintop removal mining, many many jobs have been lost."
Teri Blanton on living among the mountaintop removal operations in the Appalachian coalfields: "We have lost over 2,000 miles of streams."
Chad Berry on social justice movements in the coalfields: "Appalachia is the most misunderstood region in the country."
The whole group on the details of the demonstration:
Wendell Berry: "Everyone in the crowd must examine his or her own personal economy."
Follow Jeff Biggers on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffrbiggers