ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- The anti-coal movement rallied outside Peabody Energy corporate headquarters in downtown St. Louis Friday morning chanting slogans and demanding to present a letter to Peabody CEO Greg Boyce.
A dozen protestors were arrested toward the end of the demonstration when they crossed police barricades along Eighth St. near Market and refused to leave. They were peacefully removed, handcuffed in plastic zip ties and hauled away in a police van. All twelve were charged with trespassing, refusing to disperse and resisting arrest.
Among the critics speaking at the rally were two Navajo Indians from Black Mesa, Arizona who accuse Peabody of damaging the environment by depleting water tables near their coal mines and harming the health of nearby residents.
Peabody spokesman Vic Svec denied the accusations pointing to federal and independent studies that show the aquifer is not being permanently damaged. Svec said the mining operations on leased Indian land have "the support of the Navajo and the Hopi tribes as well as the U.S. government.
Native American Fern Benally of Black Mesa, AZ told protestors Peabody was an "evil" company that is drying up water tables and forcing Indians to travel forty to fifty miles to get water.
Benally argued the Navajo and Hopi were tricked into signing long term leases with Peabody in the 1960s.
Svec said," Peabody has been highly recognized for its approach not only for the Hopi-Navajo partnership we have, but also recognized globally for environmental excellence, restoring land, and in being a good neighbor to our local communities."
Demonstrators from West Virginia coal mining country and St. Louis joined in the chanting demanding to know why Boyce would not speak to them. MORE, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, helped to organize the protest.
Svec said the claims are not new. "The group in Arizona has met with Peabody on a number of occasions in the past so this was an attempt more at grandstanding than it was real dialogue," he said.
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