Rock Creek, West Virginia.
I get usually along with most people, at least after I get to know them. Here in Rock Creek, I get along with my neighbors, many of whom are coal miners. The local activists, who are mostly older, many even older than I am, are a scrappy bunch, don’t always get along with each other, and yet I remain on good terms with pretty much all of them. I even get along with the cops, who have arrested me six times for trespassing on the same mine site, a blast zone that is so close I could walk to the action. But the anarchists who have made their camp here in West Virginia seem to hate me. Why?
Well, I have a few theories. They must think I’m their father, an authority figure. Or maybe it’s my age. Or the fact that they are something of a clique and I dress differently. Or maybe I done them wrong somehow. Perhaps. Whatever it is, there are a number of them going around trying to make the case that I’m a bad guy. It’s character assassination, plain and simple, and it’s being done with malice.
Now if you know your Earth First! history, I was in East Texas in 1985, where I helped set up Earth First! groups in Austin and Nacadoches. Texas EF! waged a bruising and ultimately successful non-violent campaign to stop old growth logging in the Four Notch Wilderness on the Davy Crockett National Forest. This involved occupying the site by locking down to the logging machines, immortalized in Bill Oliver’s great song “Bugus and the Beast”.
I worked on a shrimp boat in Freeport in 1972 and I went to Abraham Lincoln High School in Houston in 1970, and I’ve run the Lower Canyons of Rio Grande twice, launching on New Year’s Day once in zero degree weather. So I know a little about Texas.
Yet early this month I responded to a call to action, which I’ve done many times over the years (even decades) by offering to risk arrest at the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas. Now mind you when Greenpeace asked me to go to the Beaufort Sea in April of 2001 I went, and was arrested for stoping work on BP Northstar Pipeline by driving a snowmobile with three other activists on board into the pipeline. (Two of them were in a sled being towed behind.) I totaled the snowmobile, but we dismounted and climbed the
world’s largest back hoe. I was charged with a felony.
I hung a banner on a draggling line when they mined the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico for coal back in 1982 during one of the first such EF! demonstrations. I could go on. Yet because I’m being bad mouthed by some disgruntled activists, I’ve been asked to stay away from the tar sands blockade down in Texas. I’ve been told it’s because of “tensions in the coal fields”– yet I’m the only one being sanctioned here.
Naturally, I have a thing or two to say about this. The anarchist group of whichI speak are called RAMPS, which is an acronym for Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival. They’ll tell you that they formed by
splitting off from Climate Ground Zero, a campaign I have been working on for over twelve years. What they won’t tell you is that when they split, (which was OK by me), they hacked into the CGZ website and sent out a poison pen to all of my subscribers and locked me out of the site. Not content, RAMPS posted the letter on another web site, even before they had shown it to me. It was an ambush.
Here on Coal River the letter went viral.The core group then swiped CGZ property, saying “they” were CGZ, not me. Childish. Some members of the core group continue to circulate this letter, and are making additional accusations that I had mishandled funds, harbored a violent thug, yell a lot and drink too much. Go figure.I have only one thing to say to them: Stop it.
Judy Bari once said the FBI didn’t need to infiltrate and disrupt Earth First! as we were pretty good at doing so ourselves. This behavior is childish. In my opinion, RAMPS are snobs. Two of the people who went to the Hobbit Protest this summer organized by RAMPS posted articles that you can find on the web. I don’t want to bring them into this so you’ll have to search for them. The articles these two seasoned activist posted, one a man, the other a woman, had a few things in common. One: that it was obvious that the core group was running the show, and they were suspicious and secretive and decisions seem arbitrary. Both thought the core group was self important, elitist, even snobbish. And both writers were over 50 years old and dressed and groomed themselves moderately. We used to call these “straight people”. This last mobilization on the Hobbit Mine has left so many bad feelings that RAMPS have themselves become a controversy here, the subject of many meetings and a least one mediation. I won’t even recount my mediation with RAMPS. That is a story for another day. (Suffice to say that it was a farce).
I did not want to write this letter, much less post it. But enough is enough. I’m asking RAMPS to back off. The only people who benefit from this are the real bad guys. Non violence requires openness and honesty. Eschewing property destruction does not make you non violent. In the end, it’s how we treat each other. Shouldn’t matter if you’re part of the in-crowd, a visitor, the police, the media or a coal miner. We must respect everyone we encounter for non violence to be effective, and this sort of behavior is bad for the campaign to end Mountain Top Removal (MTR). RAMPS has learned a lot about Appalachia and MTR since they arrived on this river two years ago. It’s now time for them to learn some southern manners.
For the Earth.