Last week, protesters mounted a week-long march on one of the nation's most important (and least known) historical sites: Blair Mountain. Since we're taught to loathe labor unions these days, relatively few have heard the story of one of the greatest civil uprisings in our history. Known as the Battle of Blair Mountain, nearly 15,000 coal miners fought for their right to fair treatment and decent wages. They rose up in the face of powerful coal companies, who had hired strikebreakers and enlisted the aid of paid militias and local police to attempt to quell their efforts to unionize.
So it's not exactly surprising that the coal industry has few qualms with blowing up the historic site now ...
-- and that's exactly what they'll do, unless the hundreds of protesters who took to the mountain last week can persuade the public it's more valuable than cheap coal. Which it clearly is -- even if it weren't an important historical site (it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, then removed, presumably at the behest of the coal industry, in 2010).
It's valuable because, like every other mountain targeted for removal mining -- that noble process of dynamiting pristine mountains to more easily expose its coal seams -- Blair Mountain is part of a finely balanced natural ecosystem. It's an all-around better idea, not just for the wildlife in the vicinity, but for the nearby communities who get exposed to toxic byproducts.
But there's no doubt that the coal industry's attempt to target Blair Mountain for removal mining is especially symbolic. And the modern-day protesters did a great justice to the legacy to the coal miners of 100 years ago by reminding us all what happened on Blair Mountain -- and what could still happen if we don't start working to stop it.
The climate activist Tim DeCristopher has more background on Blair Mountain the protests last week over at Grist.