Contact: Charles Suggs, Matt Louis-Rosenberg or Glen Collins: 304-854-7372.
Climate Ground Zero activists face contempt charge for violating judge's order to halt anti-mountaintop removal protests
Eleven activists are set to appear before Raleigh County District Judge Robert Burnside to show why they should not be held in contempt for violating temporary restraining orders (TRO) brought by four Massey Energy subsidiaries. Massey said the activists violated the TRO by stopping work again on March 5 and April 16th on the Edwight Surface Mine in Raleigh County. The defendants, who were cited for trespass and released, are awaiting trial on charges of criminal trespass.
The restraining orders were the result of three protests in February that halted Massey mountaintop removal operations on the Edwight mine and on Coal River Mountain.
The activists say the restraining orders are overly broad and should be vacated because they not only bar those that have already trespassed on company property, but “all other persons allied, associated, confederating, conspiring, or acting in concert with them,” and indeed anyone who ever finds about the restraining orders, from trespassing on Massey property or interfering with the company in any way. The defendants are also barred from aiding or assisting in any way, others in doing the same. Nine of those charged with contempt of court were not named on the restraining orders and activist Mike Roselle is charged with contempt only for allegedly recruiting participants for the March 5 protest.
Lawyers for Massey have requested that defendants be ordered to pay compensatory damages or a maximum of $5,000 per person (whichever is greater) and compensate Massey for all court costs. Massey has also requested that all photographs and videos of the protests be turned over to them, that any and all publication of the same be barred, and that all proceeds from the use of the media be turned over to them. Finally, Massey is requesting that all the defendants be jailed until they swear in open court never to violate the restraining orders again. According to West Virginia State Code Section 48-1-304, the maximum sentence for civil contempt of court is a 6-month jail sentence.
“Massey Energy cannot silence us” said Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero. “Massey Energy is a corrupt and criminal syndicate and we will prove this in court. It is Massey that is trespassing on the public domain by irreparably altering the landscape and poisoning the air and water of this community.”
The contempt hearing is scheduled for May 1, at 10 a.m. in Beckley, W.Va.