Today: Social Media D of A Puts the Heat on Mars

The most important moments in our movement are when people take direct action to stop Big Coal.  Sometimes though, we need online activism to amplify the impact of direct action.  Today we’re having a day of social media action that will help bring our newest campaign – to get Forrest Mars Jr to withdraw his investment in the Tongue River Railroad coal project - to a new level.

Some of you have already taken action for this campaign, holding “stickering” actions in places across the country.  Just yesterday, a group of activists in Missoula held a die-in in a supermarket pet food aisle where Mars products are sold (yes, Mars Inc owns several pet food brands).

Today you can help take this campaign farther by copying one (or more) of the the below sample tweets, status updates, or memes and pasting them on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.

The links direct people to where they can send an online message to Forrest Mars via Mars Inc.  And the social media buzz we hope to generate today will help build a community of activists we can call on again to take action.


  • Coal for the holidays? No thanks! Sign the petition to tell @MarsGlobal: #NoCoalExports! #EarthtoMars
  • Hey @MarsGlobal: Stick to exporting candy, not dirty coal! Sign and RT! #EarthtoMars #NoCoalExports

Facebook updates:

  • Earth to Mars: candy and coal don’t mix! Sign this petition to support Montana agriculture, not coal trains and climate change!
  • The Mars family legacy is financing coal exports.  Tell Forrest Mars Jr the world wants Mars to export candy, not coal















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Montanans Rally in Support of Civil Disobedience

On Wednesday, over 30 people gathered in Helena, Montana’s Constitution Park to support the venerable US tradition of civil disobedience.  Immediately before an omnibus court hearing for the 23 people arrested during last August’s peaceful protests against coal exports at the Montana Capitol, the group gathered with signs reading “Support the Coal Export Action 23,” and “No More Coal Exports.”

The rally in support of the Coal Export Action also coincided with an international week of climate solidarity, initiated by organizers of the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas.  It’s a good time to be organizing; as the Tar Sands Blockade puts it, “The aftershock of Sandy is still being felt on the East Coast, it’s the hottest year on record, and families most affected by climate change are increasingly bearing the brunt of dirty extraction.”

Residents of Helena, Missoula, Bozeman, and other Montana communities met at Constitution Park at noon, one hour before the court hearing.  Speakers at the rally included Lowell Chandler of the Blue Skies Campaign, Linda Kenoyer of the Livingston-based Montana Women For, and Corey Bressler a college junior who was one of the youngest people arrested at the Coal Export Action.

“I came to Helena, to my own statehouse and got arrested because it looks to me like there is no more time for writing reasoned letters to the editor or having meetings with the politicians,” said Linda Kenoyer, describing why she participated in last summer’s civil disobedience.  ”The time has come to put my body on the line, to risk my safety and clean record if that’s what it takes to get someone’s attention.”

At the court hearing itself, sixteen of the peaceful protesters appeared in person or called in to request a jury trial.  If granted, the trial will be a chance to argue a necessity defense: the idea that acts of civil disobedience are legally justified when used as a last resort to stop catastrophic climate chaos.

If we argue a necessity defense successfully, it will set a great precedent for civil disobedience.  At the very least, this court case is an opportunity to highlight issues surrounding coal exports in a way no one in Montana has tried before.  We’re lucky to have a great legal team working with us for minimal pay, but they do need some compensation and there are other legal costs.  If you have the means, please help us take coal exports to court by donating to the Coal Export Action Legal Defense Fund.

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Nov. 14 Court Hearing Coverage

From ”Coal protesters seek jury trial” by Sanjay Talwani at the Helena Independent Record

A group of people charged with trespassing in August during protests related to coal development filled a Helena courtroom Wednesday afternoon, asking a judge for jury trials in the matter.

Twenty-three people were charged in August for occupying the Capitol building after hours. They were trying to prevent the state Land Board from approving a lease for coal mining in southeastern Montana.

Of the 23, seven are seeking resolution through plea agreements, a lawyer for the group told Helena Municipal Judge Bob Wood.

The other 16, including longtime Montana author Rick Bass, asked for jury trials. Of those, 13 appeared in court and three communicated by telephone.

Before the hearing, about 25 people held a rally in Centennial Park on Last Chance Gulch in protest of increased coal production in Montana for export to Asia.

Trial dates have not yet been set but may take place in February, a court clerk said.

Continue reading

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November 14th: Support Non-Violent Civil Disobedience in Montana

On Wednesday, November 14th, several members of the “Coal Export Action 23″ will make an appearance in a municipal court in Helena, as a follow-up to last August’s peaceful civil disobedience at the Montana Capitol.  I’m one of those who was arrested, and will be appearing along with a diverse group of others, young and old, who decided we’re willing to get arrested for a brighter future.

If you’re in Montana, and you care about the future of non-violent direct action in this state, I hope you’ll join us in Helena on the 14th.  This will be the first time since August that those of us arrested have appeared in court, and we want to use this opportunity to show that people in Montana believe in the great tradition of disciplined, civil disobedience.

Please come and show your support.  You can RSVP for the rally here.

Immediately before the hearing, groups like the Blue Skies Campaign are organizing a support rally at Constitution Park, in downtown Helena.  The rally starts at noon, and you’ll hear from some great speakers – including Blue Skies organizer Lowell Chandler, and some of the arrestees.

After the rally, anyone who’s able to stay around can attend the court hearing itself, at 1pm.  But if you can only come to the lunch hour rally, that’s fine.  Bring your own sign, or come ready to hold one of the extra signs we’ll be providing.  And remember, this is a chance to show that Montana supports non-violent action to stop Big Coal.

RSVP for the rally on November 14th.

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Phase Two: Forrest Mars, Jr. and the Tongue River Railroad

Last August saw hundreds of people rallying, with two dozen getting arrested for peacefully sitting in, at the State Capitol Building in Helena, Montana to pressure the Lands Board to reject coal exports and the Otter Creek Mine proposal. While the week-long action galvanized and unified communities from the plains to the ports, Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Board held firm on supporting Big Coal.

But this next phase of Coal Export Action will target a new decisionmaker, one who can single-handedly shape the future of coal exports in Montana: Forrest Mars, Jr. of Mars, Inc.

Take action to pressure Forrest Mars, Jr. to pull his investments from the Tongue River Railroad project.

The proposed Tongue River Railroad has one purpose: to export coal from Montana to markets in Asia, transforming the fertile Tongue River Valley into a mining industrial zone. Coal exports hurt farmers and ranchers near mining sites, and every community affected by the transportation, export, and burning of Powder River Basin coal.

Forrest Mars, Jr. purchased a one-third share in the destructive Tongue River Railroad to divert the project from crossing his ranchland – but this won’t help hundreds of other communities in the West still affected by dirty coal transportation. It also won’t prevent the Tongue River Valley being transformed into an industrial corridor for the coal industry.

Here’s our game plan: if we tie coal exports to Mars, Inc., then Mars, Jr. will divest from the Tongue River Railroad because he will want to avoid public scrutiny on himself and his family’s company. Instead of helping fund Big Coal, we’ll ask Mars, Jr. to support Montana agriculture, which would be devastated by the impacts of coal exports.

The Mars legacy is being tarnished by dirty energy, and Forrest Mars, Jr. has a chance to change this. WE have a chance to change this.

Join Coal Export Action in asking Forrest Mars, Jr. to do the right thing for communities from Montana to Asia: pull his investment in the Tongue River Railroad and stop the industrialization of the Powder River Basin!

Sign up here to take action and we’ll send you some goodies; you can also sign and share this petition that’ll go directly to Mars, Inc.

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Rick Bass on the Coal Export Action

Montana author and activist Rick Bass participated in the first day of civil disobedience at the Coal Export Action, and was arrested that evening with six other people.  We’re honored to be able to publish the below post, written by Bass, about the moral urgency of the action and what it means to go to jail for energy justice.

The beauty of Otter Creek country and the Tongue River itself, and the integrity of the Montana values in the lives of the people who live and work there, is enough to lead even a sane and moderate person—say, an ex-geologist much as myself–to lash themselves to the bow of a ship. But the ecological devastation to this quiet corner of Montana, and the economic chicanery, is only the smallest part. If going to jail will help Montanans not sell dirty coal to China, whose people don’t have our freedom to protest—coal we would never dare burn in Montana—then I think we will be seeing a lot more arrests in the future. I hope so, anyway. If this is not a moral issue, none any longer exist.

Where to begin, trying to illuminate what is going on in this farthest corner of Montana? The story today is the same mistaken story with which white Montana first entered this groove of history: giving up our  natural resources, crudely taken, to outsiders, as a subsidized gift to the world; the blithe or wilful self-identification by Montanans, right from the beginning, as being unworthy of anything other than a colony for Eastern business establishments.  The fact that the proposed Otter Creek sale  is a complex and financially sophisticated play to help guide the rest of the developing world into building coalburning infrastructure by getting them hooked first on our below-cost coal that’s too dirty to burn in developed countries, at which point the coal and railroad cartels in our country will begin selling the rest of the U.S.’s coal at higher prices (though in that pricing there will be no accountability for social and ecological damage), makes the plan no less coarse and brutal.

Surface mining of 1.5 billion tons of sub-bituminous coal –the upper Powder River Basin is some of the dirtiest coal in the world—and sending it in dozens of miles of open boxcars throughout the West each day, to the defenseless people of China, who will have to breathe it before it is windswept back to us, arriving back to our tender lungs and brains in about
two weeks—is just wrong. It’s against every law that Montanans understand and believe in. It is not the Montana way, and yet it is happening, while we just sit at those railroad crossings and watch it pass by.

It was awesome, being arrested and dressed in the orange pajamas, with those horrible brown plastic houseslippers, and being housed indefinitely in the reading room of the Helena jail, where the police and booking personnel could not have been nicer: like a scene from “Raising Arizona.”  Too, it felt good to be stirring around a bit, after so much marble-floor butt-sitting during the sit-in at the capital. Montana and the Powder River Basin—and Otter Creek, and the Tongue River—are but a tiny gate that opens into the terrifying world of dirty coal, but our weakness—our small standing in the world—is a strength. We may not be able to defend the world, but we can defend one gate; and when investors in these schemes start to understand that, they will devise other strategies that do not involve a railroad through the ranches of the Tongue River, and which do not send miles of boxcars, swirling unregulated toxic coaldust through major Montana cities and small towns alike, night and day for the next fifty years, brake-cars squalling and hissing, boxcars clanging.

I’m particularly grateful to my fellow cellmates for their good cheer, and to our attorneys. I’m hopeful also that through the long course of this engagement the voice of local people in the affected areas—from the ranches of the Tongue River and the lands of native people to the suburbs of Seattle—will be heard, and part of whatever solutions emerge from this terribly mis-thought ploy to re-make the world’s energy market into one that becomes addicted to the most poisonous fuel of all. There are laws being broken—closest to home, the Montana Constitution is being trampled, with its promise of clean air and water—and while we might have tarried a little too long at the capital, it sure doesn’t feel like wrongdoing. To be honest, there’s not much that feels righter.

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Monday, September 17th: Come to the Land Board’s Public Meeting!

The Montana State Land Board is scheduled to hold their next public meeting on Monday, September 17th, 9:00am at the Capitol.  As with other Land Board meetings, there will be several items on the agenda – not all related to coal.  But this time, the Board is scheduled to take up one very important coal-related issue: expansion of the Signal Peak Mine.

Located north of Billings, the existing Signal Peak Mine is already a source of aquifer depletion and land subsidence that affects nearby ranching operations.  Now the mine’s investors – FirstEnergy, Boich Companies, and the international commodity trader Gunvor Group – want to expand the existing mine and extract even more coal from the Bull Mountain area.

What’s more, investors like Gunvor have made it clear the main reason for expanding is so they can send more coal to the international market.  Like the Otter Creek Mine, the Signal Peak expansion is intended mainly to produce coal exports.

Based on Land Board members’ past actions, it’s likely they’ll approve the mine expansion on September 17th.  But it’s essential this doesn’t happen without a public outcry – and we need your help to make that happen.  Join us on September 17th, and tell the Land Board not to approve another dirty coal export project.  If you’re not comfortable speaking, you can support those who will be doing so through your presence.

The Land Board may in the end approve Signal Peak’s expansion.  But by turning out in force and registering public opposition, we can build momentum to defeat new, larger, and ultimately even more important coal export projects, like the Otter Creek Mine, down the road.

Help continue the momentum from last month’s Coal Export Action.  Please join us on September 17th, at 9am in Capitol Room 303, at the State Capitol in Helena!

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Where We Stand Now

Wow.  It’s been quite a wild week and a half in Montana.

On Monday, the last group of people arrested for civil disobedience during the Coal Export Action were arraigned in court and released, capping off eight days of action against coal.  23 people were arrested over the course of a week, and hundreds more participated in the Coal export Action to support them.

And that’s not all.  Our actions captured the Montana media’s attention (see just a few of our media hits here, here, here, here, and here).  And partly thanks to attention to the issue generated by our actions, Arch Coal’s proposal to build the Otter Creek Mine received some scrutiny the company wasn’t expecting.

Now the action is over, it’s time to assess what we accomplished – and what work still remains.  We’ve got lots to be thankful for: new records set for climate-related activism, the largely positive media coverage, and the fact that we’ve built a new kind of movement in Montana, one that could actually be powerful enough to dethrone Big Coal.

But we’ve always known it would take more than one protest, no matter how impactful, to stop coal exports.  It will take a sustained movement, unfolding over months or years, to finally win this fight.  Fortunately, what happened last week suggests we’ve got the beginning of the movement we need.

Over the next few months, the groups that organized the Coal Export Action will be working to build on the momentum we generated last week.  We’ll be launching a series of new campaigns and projects aimed at challenging the corporate and political players that make the coal industry in Montana so powerful.

We’re up against some of the most powerful companies in the world – but that in itself means there are innumerable opportunities to chip away at Big Coal’s power base.  From banks that fund companies like Arch Coal, to investors who’ve put their money into mines and coal-bearing railroads, hundreds of people and companies are propping up coal exports and can be challenged accordingly.

Some of these players are Montana based, meaning much of our most important work will continue to center in the Montana communities where this movement started.  But others are national or international corporations – meaning anyone in the world can play a part in challenging coal exports.

In the next few months we’ll start pressuring some of these corporate targets.  Meanwhile we’ll be activating our allies, working with groups of people who may care about the impacts of coal exports, but haven’t yet had a way to make their voices heard.  Of course, everything we do is ultimately designed to get decision makers like the Montana Land Board to reject coal export mines.  And yes, when the time comes to put our bodies on the line and risk arrest again, we’ll be ready.

We’ll also be re-vamping this web site soon, to make it a hub for a growing, changing movement against coal exports.  So keep checking here for more updates.  With your help, we’ve launched a new kind of movement in Montana.  Now we need you to stay with us.

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We Made History in Montana

This week, the Coal Export Action made history in Montana.  Over the course of a week, 23 activists were arrested, in a sustained act of civil disobedience aimed at drawing attention to the deadly impacts of coal exports, and raising the stakes in the fight for a clean energy future.

Getting arrested is never a goal in itself – in fact, it’s something most people would rather avoid.  But with climate change crisis worsening, and coal mining and transport threatening Montana’s agriculture and the health of communities across the greater Northwest, we’ve simply got raise the bar in the struggle to stop coal exports.  We’ve tried lobbying, petitioning, and turning out to public hearings, and decision makers like the Montana Land Board have continued to side with Big Coal over communities.

When a government fails to respond to the people, we have no choice but to take matters into our own hands, and peacefully break laws enacted by that government.  That’s what 23 people did this week in Montana.  We raised the bar for climate activism in this state, and showed we’re willing to put our bodies on the line if that’s what it takes to stop a disaster.

Boy, did that feel good.

But the 23 arrests are only part of the story.  Hundreds of people participated in the Coal Export Action in some way over the course of a week.  We marched to the offices of the state Department of Environmental Quality, and spoke with the DEQ director.  We delivered thank you letters to the two members of Montana’s Land Board who bravely voted against leasing Otter Creek to Arch Coal in 2010.  And we protested outside the Montana Coal Council office in Helena…needless to say, they weren’t happy to see us.

Now the action is drawing to a close: the last major piece will be Monday morning, when we’re asking people to show up at the Helena Court House at 9am, to support the last group of arrestees being arraigned.

But in so many ways, this is just the beginning.  Arch Coal has submitted their official application to mine the Otter Creek coal tracts, and we’ve got from now until the Land Board makes a final decision on the permit, to stop that project moving forward.  This week’s action made sure we started this phase of the fight against coal exports with a bang, and in months ahead we’ll finish the job.

Expect to hear from our Coal Export Action organizing team and our partner organizations about how you can keep the pressure up in the coming months.  We’ll be organizing actions and events throughout Montana and the Northwest, putting pressure on the government bodies and individuals who make the coal industry’s reign possible.

Stay tuned.  We’ll see you in the streets and in the halls of government.


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Our Action in Photos

In the last week, we’ve brought the fight against coal exports in Montana to new levels.  We’ve put public pressure on the State Land Board, marched to the office of the Department of Environmental Quality, protested outside the Montana Coal Council, and gotten lots of great media coverage.  23 people have been arrested in an act of sustained, nonviolent civil disobedience at the Montana Capitol.

We’ll have more updates posted here soon – but in the meantime, check out some photo highlights from the last week.  We think they’re pretty inspiring!


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