Thursday, January 21, 2010
Press Release: January 21, 2010
United Mountain Defense
Journalists and Environmental Activist Arrested by TVA Police
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., January 21 – On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, United Mountain Defense (UMD) volunteer Matt Landon Jones and two journalists who were reporting on the current clean-up efforts of last year's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash disaster where arrested by TVA police. Last year, a man-made earthen dam containing 50 years of contaminated coal ash erupted, forcing over 1 billion gallons of toxic ash into tributaries of the Tennessee River and devastated the surrounding community. Marking the event anniversary, the reporters were planning to report on the lives of the residents still living in the area as well as the communities receiving train loads of the toxic waste each week from the disaster site. Noticing the train cars filled with coal ash heading to Perry County, Alabama – a poor, predominately African American community where TVA is currently shipping large amounts of the coal ash for storage in a landfill. The journalists stopped to take photographs, at which point they were approached by TVA police. The TVA police detained all three individuals, confiscated their camera and searched their vehicle. The police officer was going to release the individual after writing up citations. The officer was nearly done writing up the citations when he received a phone call. Upon hanging up the phone, the officer told the three individuals that “things had changed.” Instead of issuing warning citations, the officer then arrested and charged all three individuals with criminal trespassing in what can only be described as a gross overreaction. Just prior to the arrest, Jones called fellow UMD volunteer Bonnie Swinford who heard Jones asking the officer if he was being arrested, to which the officer answered "yes". When Jones then asked the officer what he was being arrested for, the officer replied, "I'll get back to you," and took the cell phone away. All three were handcuffed and held on $2,000 bails.
"These arrests are part of a pattern of harassment of UMD volunteers by TVA," said Jones. "TVA has tried to prevent United Mountain Defense from conducting independent water testing, deploying air monitoring, and working with the community of Roane County and they have consistently harassed me while doing this work." In 2009, Jones helped a partially blind Roane County resident get home from a community meeting. Even though the resident explained to TVA police that Jones was simply driving her home, he was arrested, held in jail for 36 hours, and prevented from traveling near the disaster site for seven months before all charges were finally dropped. Other UMD volunteers, journalist, and scientist have experienced continued harassment from TVA officials as well.
TVA's Community Relations Senior Manager Katie Bell Kline was quick to report the incident online to the Roane County Community Advisory Board, erroneously claiming that "TVA Police found the three offenders in and on top of ash-loaded rail cars located on tracks adjacent to the middle road entrance to plant." Only one individual was anywhere near the train. The other two were in the car, as clearly indicated in both the TVA officer's report and in video footage recorded by Jones before his camera was roughly confiscated.
The pattern of harassment that concerned citizens and members of the media have experienced from TVA is unacceptable and has gone on for far too long.
For more information, please contact Bonnie Swinford at 865 689-2778 or Matt Landon Jones by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video Footage of TVA police arrests on Jan 20, 2010
TVA Arrests UMD volunteer and two reporters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxDy2n3Sk94
Video Footage of past TVA harassment of UMD volunteers
Mountain Justice Spring Break Students Harassed by TVA Police - March 15, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGtD-_iOv3c
UMD volunteer arrested for helping grandmother - March 6, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2ltonE1IdM
TVA police harass UMD volunteer while setting up air monitor –March 3, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frr-e8C5k6Y
TVA worker harassment of United Mountain Defense volunteers Kingston Power plant disaster - Dec 29, 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Flo5HXvqHsw
Hurricane Creekeepper John Wathen speaks about TVA disaster and TVA police repression.- Dec 28, 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmihsLzT7XQ
TVA has roadblocks set up on the main roads leading to the Swan Pond neighborhood, preventing volunteers from bringing clean water and information. - Dec 27, 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujSElW0iG74
About United Mountain Defense
United Mountain Defense (UMD) is a Knoxville based non-profit dedicated to protecting Tennessee's watersheds, air, mountains and communities. We have many years of experience working on issues relating to surface mining and its impacts on communities. A primary focus of UMD has been in scientific data collection, community organizing, and data collection and analysis from federal and state agencies. www.unitedmountaindefense.org/