Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why I Got Arrested in DC - by Mary Love

Occupying Hal Rogers' Office
Rev. Mary Love walking out of Hal Rogers' office
On Wednesday, June 6 in Washington DC, I was arrested at the age of 67 and for the first time in my life. I was arrested with 5 other Kentuckians—three of whom are his constituents—for refusing to leave the office of Kentucky 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers.

Twenty of us went to his office that morning to speak with him about the problems with Mountain Top Removal coal mining in his district. We did not have an appointment because he has consistently refused to meet with constituents who want to talk about the MTR issue. When we were told that he was too busy to see us, we told his staff that we would just wait in his office until he was able to speak with us. Eventually, his chief of staff called the Capitol Police and seven of us were arrested for refusing to leave.

I don’t live in the 5th district, so why was I willing to be arrested? I am a Kentuckian, and what Hal Rogers does affects me as well as the people in his district. The non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has hailed him as the most “corrupt member of Congress” and the Lexington Herald-Leader has called him the “Prince of Pork” for all of the money that he has brought into his district. Yet his district ranks at the bottom of the nation in virtually every quality of life indicator and contains four of the five poorest counties in the nation.

As a person of faith, I went to Washington to speak truth to power. The Old Testament Biblical story is filled with courageous men and women who stood before kings and rulers and spoke on behalf of the poor, widows, and orphans who had no voice. I have added my voice to this prophetic tradition.

The grip of King Coal on eastern Kentucky—and all of central Appalachia—is loosening every day. We are already in another downward phase of the boom and bust cycle that has been the history of coal in the region. But this bust phase will not be followed by another boom.

Government studies and projections have shown that the amount of mine-able coal in the region has reached its peak and is rapidly declining. Natural gas is fast replacing coal as the fuel of choice for our nation’s electric power plants. Coal mines are being shut down and workers are being laid off, and the coal companies are admitting to their shareholders that this is due to market conditions, not EPA regulations.

And when the coal jobs are gone, what has been put in place to replace them? Basically, nothing. Central Appalachia is based on a mono-economy—coal. It is almost too late to begin building economic alternatives for the region, and our politicians—state, federal, and local—seem unable or unwilling to address the issue.

I am fighting for an end to Mountain Top Removal coal mining. It destroys God’s creation in our beautiful mountains, any chance for a vibrant tourism industry, the quality of our water and air, and most importantly the health and welfare of the people of the region.

I am also fighting for a transition to a just and sustainable economy for our mountain communities. Without this effort, the mountain communities will ultimately die and become a deserted wasteland.

And I will continue to speak truth to power—in the tradition of the prophets of old—even if it means risking arrest!

Mary Love is an ordained pastor in the PC(USA). 

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Join Rev. Love, the 22 people who were arrested in June, and thousands of Appalachian people suffering from Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining. 

Act now and call your representative. Ask for an end to mountaintop mining: http://ilovemountains.org/call-your-rep

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