Kentuckians march for mountains

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - On Valentine's Day about a thousand people showed their love for mountains. They marched around Frankfort hoping to let the governor and lawmakers know "enough is enough."

The protesters say they want clean land and water and can't have that while there's mountaintop removal mining.

"I'm from the mountains my family's from the mountains," said Linda Porter from Danville. "Their land was destroyed by mountaintop removal and strip mining, and it's time to end it."

People came from all over and of all ages.

"We're all in it together--not just her generation, but generations to follow," said Paul Lovelace from Lexington pointing to his young daughter.

They were united for a single purpose.

"Some things shouldn't go topless," said Arlo Barnette of Bath County referring to the mountains.

While protesters marched outside, 14 others spent three nights inside the Governor's office.

"We had the run of the place here and we thought we'd never had such a big living room as that marble place out there," said Teri Blanton who is calling the group Kentucky Rising.

They prepared for the worst.

"We came prepared to go to jail, fully expecting to be arrested," said author Wendell Berry.

Instead Gov. Steve Beshear met with them Friday. They were unsatisfied with the talks, so they camped out in his reception room for the whole weekend.

"Why would we leave?" asked Berry. "We've been treated so well."

Berry, age 76, was among those who camped out to keep the Governor's attention and force other lawmakers to listen.

"The coal industry has too much of a grip on this capitol," said Berry.

Berry and fellow protestors got a hero's reception when they stepped outside.

Organizers dubbed Valentine's Day - "I Love Mountains Day."

The only elected official who spoke was U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth from Louisville. He disagreed with fellow democrat Gov. Steve Beshear and let protesters know it.

"I know he said in his state of the Commonwealth address--EPA to stay off our backs," said Yarmuth. "We want the bulldozers to stay off our mountains' backs."

Organizers tell us Beshear promised to travel to eastern Kentucky and personally inspect the damage caused by mountaintop removal within 30 days. A spokesperson has not released a statement, but says they have not yet scheduled a date.

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