Fourteen Protesters Emerge Victorious from Kentucky Governor’s Office Sit-In Protesting Mountaintop Removal Mining
Feb. 14, 2001
FRANKFORT – Fourteen protesters emerged from their four-day occupation of the Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s office in protest of mountaintop removal mining before an exuberant crowd of over 1,000 people on the steps of the state Capitol.
In a statement delivered before the cheering throng of supporters, internationally-known writer Wendell Berry explained, “We came because the land, its forests, and its streams are being destroyed by the surface mining of coal, because the people are suffering intolerable harms to their homes, their health, and their communities.”
The protesters (who also included a retired coal miner, a nurse practitioner who treats miners, community organizers, a graduate student, and others) had been staying in the office since talks between them and Gov. Beshear came to a stalemate on Friday afternoon, when he finally agreed to meet with them after initially refusing to do so that morning. In the meeting, Gov. Beshear continued to express his steadfast support for both mountaintop removal and the coal industry.
The citizens found his position unacceptable, and refused to vacate his office. When they declined to leave, the governor instructed his security team to inform the protesters that they were welcome to stay “as long as they wanted.”
The sit-in, which the protesters dubbed Kentucky Rising, has attracted international attention, with messages of support coming in from Argentina and Germany. Leading environmental figures including Bill McKibben (350.org) and best-selling environmental writer Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) issued strong statements of support.
“People across America today…are electrified by what's going on in Frankfort,” McKibben said. ”It's about time that people said: 'No more business as usual, if that means leveling the mountains of southern Appalachia.'”
The citizens say they will hold Gov. Beshear, who is running for reelection this year, to a pledge he made this morning: to travel to eastern Kentucky within thirty days and personally inspect damage caused by mountaintop removal. “This is only the beginning. There’s no going back at the point. The pressure will continue.”
Jason Howard (Media Liaison) 606.224.1208
Silas House (Media Liaison) 606.344.0662
Lora Smith (Media Liaison) 606.524.4074