Author Archives: alpha5nvda
My action is informed by the past. By understanding the history of resistance in Appalachia. I carry the scars, and the lessons of these Appalachian struggles as I try to advocate for a more equitable future for my family, my homies and myself.
As I write this statement, I think of the the first solidarity campaign between Appalachia and Connecticut. When the final battle between the UMWA and Pittston happened, when UMWA miners travelled to the headquarters of Pittston, flanked by people in the northeast standing in solidarity in the fight for a fair wage, and a functional union; they ran face to face with all the powerful forces that constitutes what we call Capitalism.
That battle is now over, the union lost that fight, Massey bought Pittston, and now Massey is owned by Alpha, Appalachia is still impoverished, our water still makes our internal organs rot. We have been fighting this battle for more then a century and there has been one constant. The financiers, institutions like UBS, has been the force in the shadows, they are the grease that keeps the wheels of industry turning. UBS, and others, are the force that facilitates the destruction of Appalachia. They supply the capital to Arch that allows Arch to attempt to destroy the site of the largest labor uprising in American history at Blair Mountain. They funded Patriot Coal, who was just successful in stealing pensions and health benefits from the very people who broke their back in their mines; they broke their backs for the capitalist system that UBS serves.
At least for a day that stops. I am going to bring the ugly truth directly in UBS’ face, All of the grief, pain, and disappointment; I am going to bring the disappointment of my grandfather’s broken Union, I am going to bring the grief that comes with my friends dying because a coal company has decided to poison their water. I am going to bring the determination of six generations of activists, Union workers, and troublemakers who have looked the ultra rich directly in the eye, and said “This is my limit, I will suffer no more.”
Stamford, CT – Early this morning, three activists hung a huge banner reading “UBS. Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal” off of a crane constructing the 66 Summers St building in downtown Stamford. Later in the day two activists entered the UBS headquarters in Stamford, locking themselves to a bannister and hanging a banner reading “UBS. Divest from Mountaintop Removal”, while others locked themselves to the outside doors of the building. The protests are a part of the Hands Off Appalachia, a sustained campaign to get UBS to end all financing of companies conducting mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.
“Over the last two years, I have visited UBS’s offices over 30 times pleading with them to stop the destruction of Appalachian communities. Today, I’m not asking anymore. I’m demanding an end to UBS’s financing of mountaintop removal.” said Ricki Draper of Knoxville, TN who is locked inside the UBS headquarters.
Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of strip-mining in which coal companies blast up to a thousand feet off the top of a mountain to extract thin seams of coal. The resulting rubble is often placed in the valley below burying headwater streams. Over 1 million acres of forest in Central Appalachia have been destroyed and over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by this practice. Recent research has linked mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease in communities near these mining operations. UBS is a top funder of companies that conduct mountaintop removal such as Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal, and Arch Coal. On Friday, organizers with Hands Off Appalachia met with UBS executives at their office in Stamford to discuss UBS’s existing policy on mountaintop removal.
“[At the meeting] I was ‘reassured’ [by UBS executives] that UBS’s policy on mountaintop removal was sufficient enough to protect my people. I wholeheartedly disagree. The reality is that their ‘policy’ is nothing more than an excuse to remove themselves from the truth that as UBS profits, my people suffer,” said Adam Hall of Glen Daniel, W.Va. who blocked the entrance to UBS’s headquarters today.
UBS’s existing policy claims to “recognize the potential environmental, social, and human rights impacts of this industry sector” and take into consideration “concerns of stakeholder groups”, but UBS officials have never travelled to Appalachia to witness the impacts or met with impacted community members until last Friday. The policy also claims to take into account regulatory compliance, but UBS financed Massey Energy and oversaw their merger with Alpha Natural Resources even after Massey was fined $20 million by the EPA for over 4,600 violations of the Clean Water Act.
Started in Knoxville, TN, the Hands Off Appalachia Campaign has spent two years engaging with UBS about their funding of the destruction of Appalachian through this extreme form of strip mining. HOA has organized dozens of actions and protests at local UBS offices all over Appalachia and the Southeast.
This summer, HOA escalated their campaign against UBS when three organizers blocked the entrance to the Knoxville UBS branch, the point of inception for the campaign. This action was the thirty third time in sixteen months that campaign organizers had visited that office. On the heels of that action followed a blockade at UBS’ North American Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. There, four organizers with Hands Off Appalachia and Capitalism vs. the Climate, a climate justice direct action group based in Connecticut, took a stand against UBS in solidarity with communities in Appalachia. This action launched the northeast leg of our campaign against UBS. Yesterday, activists with the campaign picketed UBS’s Parade Spectacular in Stamford, handing out leaflets and displaying a large banner reading “UBS Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal.”
Friday, three organizers with Hands Off Appalachia! met with officials at UBS AG to demand that UBS stop the funding of mountaintop removal (MTR). While obtaining a meeting with these officials was a critical win for our campaign, the result was far from a victory. HOA demanded that UBS release a statement committing the wealth management company to ending their funding of mountaintop removal. UBS officials responded by pointing to their existing inadequate policy in regards to MTR. Since that policy went into effect in 2010, UBS has continued to finance some of the largest perpetrators of MTR, such as Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, and Patriot Coal.
The Hands Off Appalachia Campaign has spent two years engaging with UBS about their funding of the destruction of Appalachian through this extreme form of strip mining. Starting in Knoxville, TN, the HOA campaign quickly established a regional, and national, presence with allies and actions across the country. HOA has organized dozens of actions and protests at local UBS offices all over Appalachia and the Southeast.
This summer, HOA escalated their campaign against UBS when three organizers locked down at the Knoxville UBS branch, the point of inception for the campaign. This action was the thirty third time in sixteen months that campaign organizers had visited that office. On the heels of that action followed a blockade at UBS’ North American Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. There, four organizers with Hands Off Appalachia and Capitalism vs. the Climate, a climate justice direct action group based in Connecticut, took a stand against UBS in solidarity with communities in Appalachia. This action launched the northeast leg of our campaign against UBS.
Last week, dozens of organizers converged in rural Eastern Connecticut for Hands Off Appalachia’s Fall Action Camp. Residents of Appalachia and Connecticut and allies from around the region trained in campaign strategy and nonviolent civil disobedience. This camp is just the beginning of sustained resistance in Connecticut to UBS’s destructive policies.
To executives at UBS, the devastation of strip-mining might just be another set of numbers on one more piece of paper. To the people of Appalachia, it is a matter of life and death. Today, we are headed once again to Stamford to tell UBS that no one is collateral damage to their profits. Hands Off Appalachia will not rest until UBS stops enabling the destruction of Appalachia and its people and severs their relationship with coal companies that engage in mountaintop removal.
Hands Off Appalachia