Tree sit security guards come forward about mistreatment of sitters and workers

ROCK CREEK, RALEIGH, W.Va.—Two people who worked as security guards, two weeks ago at the strip mining tree sit on Coal River, have come forward about TMK Security’s mistreatment of them and the sitters during the week-long occupation. Chris Carey, 26, and Patrick Curry, 18, came forward because TMK was subjecting the sitters to verbal and psychological harassment, verbal assault and sleep deprivation, and working the guards too long and deceived them about the situation. Carey was fired after coming and and Curry walked off the job.

Carey and Curry gave a one-hour interview on film, the full length of which is available at A 10-minute highlight reel is available at Both are no longer employed by Delbarton, W.Va.-based TMK.

“They wasn’t doing anything. They wasn’t cussing anybody, they wasn’t assaulting anybody, they wasn’t doing anything to anyone,” Curry said. “They had no right, the miners came down there and after they was throwing those rocks, that there told me that they were ready to do anything and that’s when we moved our posts a little close to the tree.”

“I served my country so people like Laura and Nick could do what they are doing and I totally respect them for that,” Carey said. “These people are truly concerned about the citizens here and the environment and you want to put them in jail, and the EPA should’ve been doing this job and the DEP should’ve been taking care of this. But when people don’t do their jobs, it’s up to the citizens to stand up and do something about it, and they get arrested… It’s not right, it’s not what these men over in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for. I’d be disgusted if I came home and this is what I saw.”

Laura Steepleton and Nick Stocks climbed 80 feet up a pair of tulip poplars, within 300 feet of blasting and 30 feet of the Massey Energy Edwight Surface Mine. They unfurled two banners from their treetop platforms: “Stop Mountain Top Removal” and “DEP – Don’t Expect Protection.” Blasting is prohibited when people are within such proximity, as Mining Safety and Health Administration regulations require that people not be hurt in the course of blasting and that non-blasting employees all be cleared from the area.

“The security guards that came forward are my inspiration for humanity. Those two and a few other people from TMK Security were actually concerned for our safety and acted as conscientious human beings. They were given orders by head security to intimidate us and keep us from sleeping, and the tactics that were utilized did not have our safety in mind whatsoever,” Steepleton said. “I only felt secure when those two guards and a few others were on duty. I want to thank them for standing up for what they believed in. They were my heroes!”

Steepleton and Stocks came down after being threatened with chainsaws and enduring five days of psychological torture, sleep deprivation tactics and verbal assault. They were both charged with trespass after being asked to leave, obstruction and littering. Their bail was initially set at $25,000 each, but was reduced the next day to $1,000 each and both are now out of jail.

The interview was filmed and conducted by Jordan Freeman, who recently finished his work on the new film, Coal Country.

Massey continues sleep deprivation tactics through tree-sit’s sixth day

PETTRY BOTTOM, W.Va.—Massey-hired security guards continued harassing the tree sitters with bright lights, air horns and loud bangs, all day and all night. Someone also brought out a chainsaw to the area of the tree sit. Aside from these sleep deprivation and scare tactics, the sitters are alive and well and. Still, no blasting has occurred above Pettry Bottom.

Support team released, sitters sittin’ strong

The tree sitters endured their first night and day of rain today as they continue to prevent blasting in that area of the mine site for a fourth day. Following the Thursday evening arrest and jailing of tree sit ground support Kim Ellis and Zoe Beavers, Massey security adopted positions at the edge of the mined area and at the base of the trees.  The tree sitters said in a message “We’ve stayed dry through the rain but security has been kicked up a notch & so has the harassment! Their plan is to wait us out.”

As of Friday evening, it is reported that between 10 and 12 Massey security guards have taken up posts near the tree sit.  

Kim Ellis and Zoe Beavers were bailed out of Southern Regional Jail late Friday morning. They both face charges of trespassing, with a maximum fine of $500 and/or six months in jail. No court dates have been set. Contrary to prior information, Ellis and Beavers were not asked to leave their positions when police arrested them this second time.

In a radio interview on MetroNews, Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero said the tree sitters have supplies for ten days. Despite harassment and rain, the tree sitters maintain that they will not descend from the trees willingly unless Massey ceases operations above Pettry Bottom, pays the full cost of health care and home repair to Pettry Bottom residents, and the Federal Office of Surface Mining begins the full reclamation of the Edwight mountaintop removal site. Roselle’s interview can be listened to here.

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, told his side of the story in an interview with Metro News. The interview, in which he accuses the tree sitters of childish behavior and claims that mountaintop removal is necessary to for Americans to maintain a high standard of living, can be listened to here. Interestingly, areas with similarly rugged terrain but no coal mining have a much higher standard of living than areas with coal mining. When comparing county coal production in West Virginia it’s evident that the more coal produced, the lower the median income. Life spans are shorter here and cancer is more common than elsewhere in the U.S.

In other news, it seems the tree sit’s impact may be spreading to the financial sector. Two articles, today, reported on an increase of put trading on Massey Energy stock, indicating a growing pessimism among commodity investors. This came as Massey shares dropped 4% on Thursday and news of the tree sit spread to major news publications in the US and Canada.