Dustin Steele, a queer activist with the environmental group RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain Peoples' Survival) was arrested by West Virginia state police on July 28 along with what activist Jamie Phillips says were 19 other peaceful protesters who were there to argue against the Hobet strip mining site in Lincoln County, West Virginia. The activists say that Mountaintop Removal (MTR) coal mining is hazardous to the health of all those who drink water polluted by the process, as well as destructive of the health of workers and the actual area physically destroyed.
But, alleges Phillips, when Steele — an outspoken critic of the local coal industry and grandson of a coal miner — was arrested and taken to Western Regional Jail near Barboursville, West Virginia, "he was taken to a separate room once he was processed and beaten by several police officers. In the limited communication RAMPS has received from him, Dustin has said that he has severe back pain and is having trouble walking."
RAMP is asking that Steele, who is being held on a $25,000 bail for trespassing and obstructing an officer, be moved to a medical facility or released and that an investigation into the alleged beating occur. Phillips is circulating a petion on Change.org
aimed at the local legislators as well as police, demanding, "a thorough investigation, commencing immediately and not concluding until the facts of Dustin's case are firmly established, into police violence against those who resist the coal industry in Appalachia. Not only Dustin, but several other activists reported injurious treatment by the police officers who detained and processed them. We fear that this is not an isolated incident, but a systemic pattern in the justice system of West Virginia, which seems to throw the book at nonviolent demonstrators against the coal industry but turn a blind eye to those who brutalize and terrorize these brave and noble people."