CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A group that wants to preserve Blair Mountain will re-create a historic march by thousands of coal miners from Marmet to the Logan County mountain this summer.
The march will begin June 6, almost 90 years after nearly 10,000 United Mine Workers members marched from Marmet down into Logan County to organize non-union coal miners.
The Battle of Blair Mountain, fought between Aug. 25 and Sept. 4, 1921, was the largest armed confrontation in U.S. labor history. Federal troops eventually helped force the miners to return home.
This summer's march, organized by the Friends of Blair Mountain, will demand preservation of Blair Mountain, now threatened by coal companies, including Massey Energy and Arch Coal, that hope to begin mountaintop removal mining operations on the historic site.
Marchers said Wednesday they would also support an end to mountaintop removal mining and increased rights for the labor movement.
"Miners fought for so many rights that Americans today take for granted," said C. Belmont Keeney, whose great-grandfather was a main UMW organizer of the 1921 march.
"They fought for freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to own their own homes, to be paid in American money and not company scrip. ... They fought to abolish the privately held armies of the coal operators and they fought for the right to join a union," said Keeney, who teaches history and sociology at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
Salt Rock native Brandon Nida is coordinating efforts to organize the June march, which will end June 11 with a rally on top of Blair Mountain along the Boone-Logan county line.
"Most West Virginia politicians are in the pockets of the coal companies," said novelist and activist Denise Giardina. "Even Blair Mountain, the most important mountain in coal history, is threatened. We are walking for the protection of Blair Mountain, and all mountains, from mountaintop removal mining."