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I am not a photojournalist. I have never done enough of that kind of work to develop the skills and timing necessary to be good at it, but I often find myself, by virtue of either romance or employment, compelled to serve as a PJ/Event Photographer, like this past weekend when I accompanied Teri to the March on Blair Mountain. I try to bring back something useful and often I succeed.

Sometime during the rally that sweltering afternoon, a couple of yahoos wandered through the crowd carrying a “Friends of Coal” sign on a ridiculously long pole until the police escorted them out . I think they were metaphorically telling the protesters that their “pole” was bigger. The miners can be a surly bunch and are continually making threats of violence toward those who dare criticize the coal industry in the heart of Appalachian coal country. This isn’t hearsay; I’ve seen it with my own eyes many times. I watched a miner’s wife bitch-slap Judy Bonds while Judy was in police custody. They seem desperate to escalate things into physical confrontations, probably because brute force and violence are things they can easily understand.

Mine's Bigger (©2011 by Richard X. Moore)

I’m sure these two guys thought they were real badasses, wading into the middle of a thousand protesters. I’m sure their friends praised the size of their testicles. The really cool irony here, which I’m sure was lost on them, is that they probably wouldn’t be safer if they were sitting in church. Never in a million years would any of these marchers dream of harassing them, much less hurting them. The movement to stop mountain top removal is committed to nonviolence as a bedrock principle. We probably would have fed them lunch if they’d asked.

If anyone ever wandered into a pro-coal rally carrying a sign that said “Stop Destroying Appalachia,” chances are they’d get the shit beat out of them. Verbal harassment and threats are a virtual guarantee.I’m sure the industry would deny this, by they’ve spent a lot of time and energy inciting just those kinds of emotions in their workforce.

That’s the important message here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the protesters missed it. They were far too busy listening to the speakers who came to cheer them on. Far too absorbed in the significance of the day, and of the history of Blair Mountain, to worry about a couple Friends of Coal in their midst.

So I’m not a photojournalist, but for me that’s the money shot, the takeaway message of the whole day. It speaks of the character of the people who gathered to try to save Blair Mountain, and more subtly about those who stand in their way.

RXM

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2 Comments

  1. Cant say I care either way about the people who protest for or against matters like this. I will say its great they have protests so people can sit out side and fan themselves, not a more beautiful sight!

  2. great job rick I really like your writing


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