UPDATE: Protest against Massey Energy's safety records

Written by Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A protest against Massey Energy just wrapped up at the Jefferson Hotel. Hundreds came together to tell the Richmond-based company they are not happy with the way it treats its workers.

So far, at least two activists have been arrested. More than 500 protesters came out with a united purpose. They want changes to protect those people working in the coal mines today.

Soon after the West Virginia blast that killed 29 men, Massey Energy's safety record came into the spotlight.

The company has been in Richmond since 1920 -- a long history, with a somewhat spotty safety record.

Although it touts its safety record on its web site, a search of records show three people died at the same West Virginia mine in 1998.

Last year, Massey was fined more than $382,000 for violations at that time.

So on Tuesday morning, hundreds of people, led by United Mine Workers of America Union President Cecil Roberts, "We have come today with a loud and clear message that we've have had enough of that ferret from Appalachian." He is talking about Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

The protesters came to the rally, by the bus load. Those buses surrounded Monroe Park just after 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.

They all came out for many reasons. But Doug Martin was out for the families of the 29 men killed in the April coal mine blast and the others who have died working in a Massey mine in the past decade.

"They have a voice and don't have to leave their tongue at the guard house. Safety is number one. You shouldn't have to hide in the shadows," says Martin.

Well before the rally began, dozens of Richmond Police Officers lined Monroe park, and the surrounding streets. Several mounted patrol officers worked to keep the peace.

We are learning, from one activist group here at the protest, that two people were arrested for hanging a banner from a second story mezzanine inside the Jefferson Hotel on Tuesday. That is the same hotel where the Massey Shareholders were holding their annual meeting.

The two arrested are Oscar A. Ramiez, 25, of Gaithersburg, Md., and Kaitlin E. Finneran, 22, of Washington D.C. They were charged with trespassing.

After about 30 minutes of passionate words by Roberts and others, the hundreds marched to the Jefferson.

"I just hope they start saving lives," says Jim Crislip. "That's what I hope for."

"I do hope it will make a difference in everyone's lives and pray for those who lost loved ones," says Martin.

Massey Energy does tout its own safety record, saying after last months' blast, company wide, Massey's safety record has been better than the industry average for six straight years.

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