The Columbus Free Press spoke with Kim Ellis of Climate Ground Zero as police arrested supporters on the ground who were there to assist the tree sitters high above them. This is the most recent of a series of acts of non-violent civil disobedience aimed at stopping Massey Energy from blasting parts of Coal River Mountain. It comes on the day environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship debate each other at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. The event will stream live starting at 6:30 pm, on Jan. 21.

Ellis said she hopes non-violent civil disobedience of this sort will speed up the process of finally getting a ban on mountain top removal mining.

“You have to pursue every avenue. We are talking with the DEP ( West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection). We are trying to deal with legislators to get this stopped. But in the meantime, they (Massey Energy) are blowing up mountains. We can’t just let that happen. So we are putting our bodies in the way of that.”

At the time of speaking with Ellis shortly before noon today she said “ the latest update we have from the folks in the trees is that ground support ( activists providing food and water and other aid to the tree sitters) have been arrested. The cops have left the scene and Massey Energy employees are felling trees in the area to intimidate the tree sitters into coming down.”

Activists associated with Climate Ground Zero, David Aaron Smith, 23, Amber Nitchman, 19 and Eric Blevins, 28 are on platforms approximately 60 feet up one tulip poplar and two oak trees, according to a press release from the organization.

“The last tree sit we did as a campaign, our folks were up in the trees for six days. We send up enough food and they also have buckets they use as toilets. They are prepared to be in the trees a long time,” Ellis said.

She said the previous tree-sit in August of 2009 ended when Massey Energy employees felled trees near the ones the protesters were in.

“So they came down of their own accord because they were scared for their lives.”