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Audience digs 'The Last Mountain'

Chip Ellis
Terry Hess (left) and his friends show up early Friday evening to get a good seat for the showing of the anti-mountaintop-removal documentary, "The Last Mountain."
Chip Ellis The film, featuring environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was shown at the West Virginia State University Capitol Center on Summers Street.

Related story: An important film for West Virginians.

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Applause and standing ovations were given at the screening of an anti-mountaintop-removal mining documentary that premiered Friday in Charleston.

"The Last Mountain," a film made during dozens of trips to West Virginia by environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., director Bill Haney and many others, was given a free screening at the Capitol Center Theater.

Many audience members said the documentary serves as a message to Americans to be more concerned over the controversial mining practice. Others said the film could energize West Virginians to get involved in protests such as the labor March on Blair Mountain, which concludes Saturday.

"Deep issues make people uncomfortable," said Scott McMillen, 40 of Charleston. "Serious issues on how our state is run are seen as scary. Instead, people are too concerned with which star is married to this star."

Melissa Burch, 22, of Cameron, said most of West Virginia's population is torn over the use of mountaintop-removal mining. Burch said she has participated in the march and planned on attending Saturday's conclusion ceremony.

"There's a surprising amount of people, in the border states especially, that do not know a lot about it," she said. "A lot of West Virginians, young West Virginians, are in support or they are either pro-coal. It's really split."

Rita Ray of Charleston said she has spent two days with the marchers and was glad to see the large crowd of people who turned out for the film.

"I think it's a very important story that needs to be told," Ray said. "I hope it gets a wide distribution so that everyone can see it."

The detrimental health effects attributed to mountaintop-removal mining for coalfield residents that were shown in the film moved Joan Steven of Charleston.

"It touched my soul," Steven said, "and I am blessed by the grace of God not to be living in Southern West Virginia."

Kennedy said the movie was made to educate the world on how a few coal companies are polluting West Virginia and harming its citizens.

"Mountaintop-removal mining is destroying the wealth of West Virginia, it's destroying jobs, it's destroying its prosperity," Kennedy said. "Instead, it's enriching a few CEOs who will make tens of millions of dollars.  . . . They are subverting democracy in the state and corrupting politicians and the judiciary, and they are destroying transparency in government."

Kennedy said he would speak Saturday at the march's conclusion near the Boone-Logan county line.

He said his son, John Conor Kennedy, has been marching the entire week and his niece, Summer Kennedy, had been participating for two days. He said both of them intend to be arrested, if need be, for their causes.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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