BRISTOL — Eight activists protesting mountaintop removal coal mining were arrested Friday morning outside of Alpha Natural Resources.
Bristol Virginia Police Department Sgt. Steve Crawford said officers were called to the corporation’s headquarters at 6:27 a.m. One of the protesters, Crawford said, climbed the flagpole in front of the building, tied himself to the pole and displayed a banner that stated “Save Coal River Mountain.”
The front doors of the building were also locked on the outside with chains, Capt. Maynard Ratcliff said.
When officers arrived, several individuals, who were not chained together, fled into the woods, Crawford said.
He said it took nearly the entire patrol shift and help from the city’s fire department to remove the locked protesters. Crews used aerial ladder equipment to remove the man from the flagpole.
Eight activists were transported to the Bristol Virginia Jail.
Their names and the charges filed against them:
Camilo Pereira, 22, of Bethesda, Maryland, obstructing free passage and trespassing. Police said he was also wanted in Maryland on a charge of burglary;
Galen Sol Shireman-Grabowski, 19, of Bear Lake, Michigan, disorderly conduct, obstructing free passage, trespassing, and violation of fire codes;
Maleny Crespo, 21, of Lansing, Michigan, obstructing free passage and trespassing;
Glenn Scott David Collins, 26, of Rock Creek, West Virginia, Roger Alden Butterfield, 24, of Sarasota, Florida, Dustin Steele, 22, Matewan, West Virginia, Nicholas Rasmussen Segal-Wright, 23, of Sarasota, Florida and Dakota Rae Steele, 19, of Poultney, Vermont, all charged with trespassing.
All eight protesters were given court dates on June 23.
Mountain Justice, an environmental organization, said the activists were protesting Alpha’s “devastating practices of mountaintop removal coal mining” and the opening of new mines on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia.
“That mountain is the mountain I learned to hunt on,” Junior Walk of West Virginia said in a Mountain Justice statement. “It’s the mountain that’s sustained my family for generations. I’ll be a dead man before I see them take what’s left up there.”
Alpha recently began blasting on the 264-acre Collins Fork mine, Mountain Justice said. Local residents and activists have opposed surface mining on Coal River Mountain since the late 1990s.
Alpha Natural Resources spokesman Steve Hawkins said Alpha has developed a protocol to handle protests on the property and Hawkins said it worked well Friday.
Crawford noted that police arrested five protesters last May, when activists blocked the road leading to the company’s headquarters.