Dozens of activists from across the country on Saturday staged a demonstration at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s headquarters, which resulted in the arrest of 14 individuals.
The protestors were participating in a "die in" in front of the building.
They said the event was held "in solidarity with communities affected by the destructive impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and the survivors of the recent coal ash disaster in Harriman."
“It is time for TVA to take full responsibility for its destructive behavior,” Eric Blevins, an organizer with Mountain Justice, said.
He said, “They need to support the recovery of the community that is still being hurt by the ash disaster, and take an active role in the transition away from dirty and dangerous practices towards renewable energy and healthier jobs.”
Saturday’s demonstration began with a rally in Market Square, where organizers from United Mountain Defense, and Mountain Justice "spoke about coal's impact from cradle to grave on communities in Appalachia and the surrounding area."
The crowd then marched through downtown Knoxville and ended at TVA’s headquarters. At the end of the march "people interested in participating in civil disobedience gave a statement as to why they wanted to take this action. With the support of a singing crowd each participant fell to the ground representing the deaths caused by the coal industry."
After a few minutes Knoxville law enforcement informed the participants that they were blocking the sidewalk, and that they needed to remove themselves from the area. That's when 14 people were arrested and cited.
TVA owns and operates the Kingston coal plant, where last December an impoundment failed, spilling 1.6 billion gallons of coal ash waste over an area of 400 acres.
Bonnie Swinford, full time volunteer for United Mountain Defense, said, “The massive toxic fly ash disaster is just one more reason that coal is filthy. Coal fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion, is an end result of the dirty life-cycle of coal, which often begins with surface mining and mountaintop removal, followed by a washing process that produces coal toxin concentrate known as slurry. Mountaintop removal coal extraction has destroyed almost 500 mountains, and, in addition to coal slurry, continues to destroy water sources across Appalachia.”
The group said mountaintop removal "is the most destructive method of coal extraction, in which mountains are blown up to expose coal seams. This process destroys fragile mountain ecosystems, fills valleys and streams with waste, and leaves behind billions of gallons of toxic coal sludge that contaminates essential drinking water supplies for many cities surrounding Appalachia."
The demonstration was part of what the group called "an escalating series of protests across the country calling for immediate action on the coal industry’s destructive practices, including recent arrests in the Coal River Valley, West Va., on March 5 and the Capital Climate Action, where on March 2 nearly 3,000 protesters closed all entrances to the Capitol Coal Plant in Washington, D.C."