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Defending Organizer Maria Gunnoe of West Virginia

We reported on the case of Maria Gunnoe, a community organizer in the mountains of West Virginia for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). In her work bringing people together to fight mountaintop removal, she and her family faced threats. Following the article below and others shining a light on the situation, Gunnoe and OVEC found new support to an organizer under attack: Dianne Bady, organizing director of OVEC, writes: "NOA's action alert led to a $5,000 grant from the Urgent Action Fund to help with security expenses for Maria." NOA was proud to provide support to this organizer.

Please share your stories about other organizers facing intimidation or threats for doing the good work of organizing.

Our earlier story: Another Organizer Facing Attacks (Dec 2007) Maria Gunnoe is a community organizer in the mountains of West Virginia for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). Maria is a life-long resident of the coalfields. She organizes people who want to protect their communities. Her own home has been severely damaged by the nearby highly destructive consequences of mountaintop removal.Maria Gunnoe is a community organizer in the mountains of West Virginia for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). Maria is a life-long resident of the coalfields. She organizes people who want to protect their communities. Her own home has been severely damaged by the nearby highly destructive consequences of mountaintop removal.

She has faced threats and intimidation from the employees of a company doing mountaintop removal.. OVEC and other organization joined with local community members and successfully stopped a valley fill in dry branch hollow that the workers jobs depended on. A meeting of community people and potential witnesses was delayed and then prevented from happening by company employees, some drunk, blocking parking spaces, surrounding and threatening a 79 year old retired United Mine Worker member who opposed the mountaintop removal and valley fill. Not satisfied with intimidation, these goons then forced their way into the building taking the chairs inside the meeting room and filled the parking lot prohibiting OVEC members and supporters from coming to this meeting. The meeting was forced to be held on a dead-end road.

After testifying despite the threats and successfully stopping a nearby valley fill the threats against Maria and her family have continued in many forms: “(An employee of the company) said to a friend that ‘it was odd sometimes how houses just catch on fire and people died in them.’" Phone calls, drive by shouts, men walking near their house at night, and continuous harassment continue to be aimed at Gunnoe and her family. Now one of the workers has filed bogus battery charges against Maria to further harass and intimidate her. Guards now protect this organizer's home while she and her family try to go on with daily life.

Gunnoe is a 2006 recipient of the Joe Calloway Award for Civic Courage created by the Washington DC-based Shafeek Nader Trust for The Community.

World Rainforest Award 2007 Recipient David vs Goliath Award. Rainforest Action Network www.ran.com
No organizer should face such threats alone. We join with the West Virginia organizations that stand behind Maria Gunnoe. Go to http://www.myspace.com/ohvec or go to www.ohvec.org for more details about mountaintop removal. Send letters, post cards or donations to Maria Gunnoe PO BOX 46, Bob White WV 25028 or you can send a donation to OVEC in honor of Maria Gunnoe’s work at PO 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753


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