Eleven Arrested At Peabody Coal’s Annual Shareholder Meeting


peabody AGM11 Activists Arrested At Peabody Coal’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Clayton

Community members from St. Louis, Black Mesa, and Rocky Branch Unite to Hold Peabody Accountable for Destroying Communities  

ST. LOUIS–Today, for the second time in less than a week, activists were arrested at a Peabody Coal demonstration. 75 people rallied at Peabody’s annual shareholder meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton. Members of the local Take Back St. Louis campaign were joined by Dineh (Navajo) Peabody resisters from Black Mesa and residents from Rocky Branch, Illinois who are currently fighting Peabody’s mine expansion there.

Representatives from Take Back St. Louis, Justice for Rocky Branch, and Tonizhoni Ani had bought shares of Peabody in order to attend the shareholder meeting and voice their concerns to CEO Greg Boyce, but were not allowed into the main meeting room with Peabody executives. When they were placed in an “overflow room,” they walked out of the meeting. The entire rally then marched to the entrance of the Ritz Carlton to deliver a letter outlining the group’s demands to Greg Boyce. Eight people were arrested while trying to enter the Ritz Carlton to deliver the letter. Two other people were arrested attempting to enter the shareholder meeting from the overflow room.

Today’s protest comes less than a week after Wash U Students Against Peabody’s 17 day sit-in ended when seven students were arrested trying to enter their Board of Trustees meeting to encourage Peabody CEO Greg Boyce to resign from the University’s Board of Trustees.

“I am here today to continue to spread the message that the Wash U Students Against Peabody started spreading with their actions over the past weeks,“ said Marshall Johnson, Black Mesa Resident and member of Tonizhoni Ani. “We need to stand up to Peabody on Black Mesa and here in St. Louis so our children and grandchildren and all future generations can have clean water and clean air. I am grateful to Wash U students for standing up for a respectful future for us all.”

Recently, Peabody has been engaging in unprecedented attempts to undermine St. Louis’ local democracy. In late March, Peabody sued to keep the citizen-driven Take Back St. Louis initiative off the ballot and away from voters. The ballot initiative would stop the city’s policy of giving Peabody and other big corporations large tax breaks. Now, in the past few days, Peabody’s lobbyists and Mayor Slay’s lobbyists have inserted amendments into Missouri Senate Bill 672 that would ban the city of St. Louis from “by ballot measure impos[ing] any restriction on any public financial incentive authorized by statute.” The amendment is a blow to local control, stripping the city of the ability to determine its own tax regulation.

“The ballot initiative process exists so that we as city residents can bring our concerns to our government and other city residents. Peabody Coal and Mayor Slay are blatantly attempting to subvert our local democratic process,” said Joretta Wilson, member of the Take Back St. Louis campaign. “We collected 22,000 signatures to put the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative on the ballot, and now Peabody and Slay’s lobbyists are trying to make the initiative illegal before St. Louis residents even get a chance to vote on the initiative.”

Today’s demonstration united the local Take Back St. Louis campaign with communities fighting Peabody across the nation, including Dineh (Navajo) resistors from Big Mountain/Black Mesa in Arizona, and the Justice for Rocky Branch campaign in Southern Illinois. For decades, these communities have experienced Peabody using its financial power to influence democracy and ensure continued profits without concern for human lives, homes, and futures.

“I am here today to ask Mr. Boyce why our homes and our land are being destroyed for Peabody’s bottom line, “ said Judy Kellen, one of the Rocky Branch residents who tried to enter today’s shareholder meeting.  “Peabody is making profits at the expense of our future and the health of future generations.”

This year marks the 40th year of Indigenous resistance by the Diné (Navajo) communities of Big Mountain and Black Mesa, Arizona to forced relocation from ancestral homelands due to Peabody Coal’s massive strip mining. The effects of the relocation meet all the criteria of the UN’s internationally recognized definition of cultural genocide. Diné (Navajo) resistors on Black Mesa are planning a one-week training camp starting May 16th to demand “not one more relocation” of Indigenous people by Peabody. Members of the Take Back St. Louis campaign will be traveling to Black Mesa for the camp, continuing the increased unity amongst groups fighting Peabody across the country.

More information on Take Back St. Louis is available here: www.TakeBackStLouis.com

More information on the Big Mountain Training Camp is available here: Big Mountain Spring Training Camp

Photos are attached. Video available upon request.

Activists are available for interviews all day.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Climate change is about corporate power

This article was originally posted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Climate change is about corporate power

By Jeff Ordower

The sense of urgency is palpable.

Last week, 50 strangers turned out for a meeting on climate change at Central Reform Congregation. The Post-Dispatch played a critical role in that organizing through its use of the editorial page.

There is motion starting, but I worry about the where and the how. Many in the movement argue this is simply a matter of lifestyle changes. We will never be able, though, to change the behavior for the 3 million people in the region. More importantly, not all of those people will be able to buy local or drive less. While low-income folks might want to save gas, their driving to a job far away is necessary to providing an income for their household. As we are seeing this summer, senior citizens are simply not able to live without air conditioning. And to be perfectly honest, most of us (myself included) like some decadent components of our lifestyles and will never give up our creature comforts of good food or travel.

None of us can make lasting changes in our lives out of guilt. We should not feel guilt over the emissions that are causing global warming. Powerful corporations made it this way.

My parents can talk about the vast network of streetcars that existed around St. Louis. What happened to these streetcars across the U.S.? Automobile companies lobbied to eliminate streetcar tracks and privilege the roads and cars. The advantages accrued by unsustainable extractive companies continue to grow. Oil companies receive billions in subsidies while renewable energy providers receive almost nothing. There are huge tax breaks going for natural gas hydrofracturing (fracking) extraction, but nothing for commercial weatherization. Banks and global finance capital help perpetuate this system and make huge bets on coal extraction, yet a start-up solar company requires government assistance. Even the food we eat is traded by hedge funds on the secondary market as commodities produced by agribusiness.

The system is doing its job. It tells us that global warming is about our choices as consumers, rather than going after the root cause of our predicament. Here in St. Louis, we have an incredible opportunity to tackle corporate power head on. The largest private sector coal company in the world, Peabody Coal, is headquartered here in St. Louis, as is Monsanto, the largest agribusiness giant. In addition to Peabody, there are four other coal companies in the St. Louis area.

You would think that when trying to attack global warming here, people would want to challenge these local corporations. The corporations, though, play local politics pretty smart. Rather than paying its fair share of taxes, Peabody spends millions on the sponsorship of civic activities, including chairing this year’s United Way appeal. Who can argue with such a “charitable” corporation?

When we talk about building a movement, this is no movement in the abstract. This is about the coal companies, and their interest in garnering profits, rather than creating sustainable jobs. This is about the banks, and their interest in funding the extractive industries rather than adopting a path towards sustainability. And most importantly, this is about a corporate and institutional culture in the St. Louis region that considers the largest climate destroyers the most important engines of our region’s economic growth, rewarding them with plum positions on the RCGA, the United Way and on the board of Washington University, our most prestigious local university. Those whose behavior we must change are people who we can name — Greg Boyce, Hugh Grant, Mark Wrighton, Gary Dollar, Stephen Leer, Joe Reagan.

The people writing in to the Post-Dispatch are right. We need a movement. We need direct action. We need civil disobedience in a Selma-Montgomery-style movement. History shows that power structures do not change without bold, courageous and mass action. We ask those who are interested to join us in building a movement that compels our civic leaders and corporations to build a sustainable region for all of us, and most importantly for our future generations.

Jeff Ordower is the executive director of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, organizes with Rising Tide North America and has been a community or labor organizer for the past 20 years.