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Calif. filmmaker, others arrested at MTR protest in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police arrested a California filmmaker on her way to shoot a mountaintop removal protest Saturday morning. At least four others also were arrested before and during the protest, which took place at Patriot Coal's Hobet Mine in Lincoln County, according to organizers.

Babette Hogan, 52, of San Francisco, said she was taking pictures from the passenger seat of a vehicle on Kanawha State Forest Drive before the protest when a West Virginia State Police trooper demanded her camera.

"I started shooting what looked like a scene to me and the trooper came over and asked me if I had been taking his picture," she said. She said she replied that she had been taking pictures of what was going on.

"He said, 'Give me your camera,'" Hogan alleged.

When she refused, Hogan said, she was placed in handcuffs and eventually taken to the detachment in Marmet, where she was fingerprinted.

Hogan claimed the trooper, whom she described as young, most likely was concerned about having been photographed while being out of uniform -- the man was not wearing his State Police-issued hat, she said.

At the time Hogan was taking pictures, officers were trying to clear the road, where numerous cars had parked, she said.

Hogan said she empathized with the officers, who she said were attempting to manage a tense situation on little sleep. On a different day -- when tensions were not so high -- the man might not have arrested her, she said.

"I have shot in West Virginia before and shot troopers with no problem," Hogan, who is working on a documentary about the environment, said. "[I have] found them to be really responsible people under the circumstances that they have to work. I have a high respect for them and what they're facing. It's just so tense."

Hogan said the trooper charged her with obstruction. She said she was released on $2,500 bail.

Calls to the State Police and spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous were not returned Saturday evening. A dispatcher said troopers were too busy handling the protesters to talk with a reporter.

The environmental-activist organization RAMPS -- Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival -- organized the rally, during which 50 protesters walked onto the Hobet Mine property, shutting it down.

"The government has aided and abetted the coal industry in invading environmental and mine safety regulation," Dustin Steele, a Matewan resident and protester, said in a prepared statement from the organization. "We are here today to demand that the government and coal industry end strip mining, repay their debt to Appalachia and secure a just transition for this region."

The organization kept the site of its protest under wraps until Saturday.

One protester, identified on the RAMPS website as Bryan Garcia of the Katuah Earth First organization, was in a tree, surrounded by four coal miners, the group claimed. The coal miners threatened to cut the tree down with a chain saw, although no saw was visible, according to the organization.

Among the more than 50 protesters were 10 people who locked themselves to a rock truck and dropped banners that read "Coal leaves, Cancer stays," according to a statement from RAMPS.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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