CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A spokesman for an environmental group said they need to raise a half-million dollars' worth of property to bail out 20 activists arrested on misdemeanor charges during a demonstration this weekend.
More than 50 activists from the group, Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival, disrupted operations at Patriot Coal's Hobet Mining property for about three hours on Saturday. State Police charged 20 with trespassing and obstructing when they refused to leave the site. Some joined hands and others chained themselves to an explosives truck.
Matthew Louis-Rosenberg, a Sandstone resident and the group's spokesman, alleges that State Police cooperated with coal supporters and miners who showed up to intimidate them. State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said police support an individual's right to protest and showed no preferential treatment in enforcing the law.
The group began Saturday morning by organizing at a rented pavilion in Kanawha State Forest near the site between the Lincoln County and Boone County border, Louis-Rosenberg said.
Members of the group rallied behind their mission to stop coal companies from harming the environment and West Virginians' health through a nonviolent demonstration, he said. In the past, the group has been responsible for disrupting operations at mountaintop-removal sites by camping atop trees.
On Saturday, counterprotesters showed up near the mine site and the two parties began a healthy, civil dialogue about mountaintop removal coal mining, Louis-Rosenberg said. The two groups respected each other even though they disagreed, he said.
But later, he said, counterprotesters more hostile toward the RAMPS members showed up.
Eventually, about 50 RAMPS protesters walked onto the mine's property and began hanging signs from trees and an explosives truck. State Police and mine officials showed up and ordered the protesters to leave or be arrested. Twenty remained and had to be physically removed by police.
The protesters used the strategy of going limp, Louis-Rosenberg said.
"They were not actively refusing, but they were forcing themselves to be carried or dragged," he said. "It was somewhat of a rough process, but I did not hear about injuries. One woman was dragged offsite by her pigtails."
The 20 protesters are mostly state residents, he said. They were arraigned in Lincoln County Magistrate Court and are being held in Western Regional Jail, each in lieu of a $25,000 property bail.
The bails set by Lincoln Magistrate Mona Snodgrass are unreasonable for the misdemeanor charges the 20 are charged with, Louis-Rosenberg said.