On July 2nd and 3rd, members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) were joined by about 20 allies from West Virginia and Virginia in a picket and two candlelight vigils outside the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs West Virginia. The Greenbrier is home to an annual PGA golf tournament that brings thousands to the small West Virginia town to watch a tournament, all of it made possible by the profits Jim Justice has extracted from Appalachian communities.
On Wednesday night, the event started with a group of about 10 holding a candle light vigil, walking through downtown White Sulphur Springs (WSS), and ending at the Greenbrier entrance. We were met by local police and a representative of the Greenbrier security force. The Deputy Sheriff, Smith, was immediately friendly and encouraged our action, as long as we did not disrupt traffic.
On Thursday, we started the picket a little after 10 AM. With signs that read “You got rich, we got sick”, “Employ local people in reclamation”, and “Hey Jim Justice, Be a good neighbor to ALL of Appalachia”, we marched a circuit between the WSS public library, the Greenbrier main entrance, and downtown WSS. Along the way we met a local exterminator, a representative of Greenbrier workers and several other local residents who had personals stories to tell of Jim Justice failing to pay his debts, and generally being a bad neighbor in his own home county.
We continued the picket in shifts, trading off after a round or two in the July sun. Throughout the afternoon we were greeted by supportive honks, and added names to our petition in support of the Justice to Justice demands.
A group of 5 split off and went to nearby Lewisburg, where many of the guests in town for the golf tournament were staying and eating during the event. The team handed out fliers, talked with local business owners and gathered petition signatures.
The local police were generally supportive, and there seemed to be no local love lost on the hometown billionaire. We talked to many locals who had almost no idea that Justice’s wealth had been built in part on the backs of blasted mountains and abandoned communities.
While we did not get the media attention we hoped for, we feel buoyed by this action, and by the reception we received in White Sulphur Springs. We know that Justice’s corrosive business practices are felt beyond our coalfield communities, and we hope to build relationships and solidarity with those who seek justice from Jim Justice, no matter which resource he is extracting from hard working people.
From White Sulphur Springs we march on. Over the next 4 – 6 weeks, we wil be working to connect with communites impacted by Justice’s mining operations across the region, and bringing extra scrutiny and attention to on going violations on Justice affiliated operations. We are also continuing to gather petition signatures, and will plan on another delivery action in the near future.