Two Jailed Pro-Mountain Activists Stage Hunger Strike Against Excessive Bail

Written by Scott Parkin

Topics: Coal

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The legal system is loaded against people fighting King Coal in Appalachia. Over the past year, we’ve seen excessive “cash-only” bails for non-violent activists in jail and excessive fines once their legal matters are settled.

Now two of the three activists arrested last week at the Marfork Coal Company’s offices are fighting back against their excessive bails ($5000 for two and $7500 for the third activist, Mike Roselle).

These folks are putting their health and safety on the line in resisting big coal and the corrupt legal systems. Please donate to help Climate Ground Zero fight King Coal in southern West Virginia.

BEAVER, W.Va.—Tom Smyth, and Joe Hamsher, from Charleston, W.Va., began a hunger strike in jail today in protest of the absurdity of their $5,000, cash-only bonds compared to that of violent criminals. Smyth and Hamsher went to jail last Thursday when they chained themselves to office furniture in Massey’s Marfork Mining Co., office in response to mounting permit violations and the continued blasting on Coal River Mountain. They also presented a citizen’s arrest warrant to Marfork president Christopher Blanchard, on charges of attempting to injure by poison, malicious or unlawful assault or assault of a child near a school, and wanton endangerment.

Already this month, a man accused of four sex crimes involving a 13-year-old got out on $15,000 bond. Another man, after stabbing someone five times in the back, was being held on $10,000 bond and his accomplice on $6,000 bond. A 19-year-old Beckley woman was arrested for wanton endangerment after shooting at another woman in a Family Dollar parking lot and was being held on $10,000 bond. None of these articles indicates they were restricted to cash-only, which means they’d only have to put up 10% of their total bond amount.

The protesters “cash-only” bonds mean the entire bond amount must be paid in cash, and they cannot use a bail bondsman to pay only 10% of the amount. “There is something broken in a judicial system that responds more harshly to nonviolent protesters than violent criminals, not to mention allowing Massey’s crimes to go on unpunished,” tree sitter Amber Nitchman said. Smyth and Hamsher say they will continue their hunger strike until their bonds are reduced to a reasonable amount.

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