Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

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Direct Action Protest Hits Swiss Bank UBS for Role in Financing Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

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Posted Dec. 4, 2013

Interviews with "Hands Off Appalachia" and “Capitalism Versus the Climate” protesters targeting Swiss Bank UBS headquarters, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


An activist group from the southern coal fields calling itself “Hands Off Appalachia,” and a Connecticut-based group named “Capitalism Versus the Climate,” carried out two protest actions in Stamford, Conn. on Nov. 25, targeting the U.S. headquarters of Swiss banking giant UBS. The groups say the bank was targeted because it is a major financer of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Mountaintop removal coal mining is a mineral extraction method in which the tops of mountain ridges are literally blown off with explosives in order to mine the coal seams beneath. The earth and rock rubble is dumped into the valleys below, and thus far, more than 2,000 miles of streams have been buried through this process. The mining method has also been linked to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 25, four activists scaled a construction crane outside the bank and hung a large banner which read, “UBS Stop Funding MTN TOP Removal.” Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus later accompanied a small group of protesters inside UBS corporate headquarters, where two activists chained themselves to a railing, over which they hung a second banner. In all, 14 protesters were arrested and charged with first- and second-degree criminal trespass, second-degree breach of peace and conspiracy. The activists were later released on bail and are to appear in court in January. In Melinda Tuhus’ report on the protest we hear first from Hands Off Appalachia member Ricki Draper of Knoxville, Tenn.

RICKI DRAPER: We just dropped a banner that says "UBS stop funding mountaintop removal." And we are here, and we're going to stay locked in by our necks with U-locks. And we're here to demand that UBS stop funding mountaintop removal, because it's killing communities in Appalachia.

DUSTIN STEELE: I'm Dustin Steele, originally from Mingo County, W.V. UBS funds companies like Arch, who is presently trying to destroy Blair Mountain and also Patriot, who has just succeeded in stealing people's pensions and health benefits, so we're here at least for one day to hold them accountable for the damaging practices that they fund. They're the silent partner, the people who get no pressure, but without the money UBS facilitates, mountaintop removal would not be possible. And we gotta make sure that banks like UBS know that people of Appalachia won't stand for this.

BETWEEN THE LINES: On the sidewalk outside UBS headquarters, Hands Off Appalachia spokesperson Tyler Cannon further explained what's at stake and why his group targeted UBS.

TYLER CANNON: We're taking action here today to demand that UBS withdraws all contributions to all organizations that support or practice MTR. For over two years, this campaign has worked with a UBS executive, and we finally achieved that last week. Unfortunately, they gave us the same response they've continuously given us, which is to continue to refer to their inadequate policies surrounding MTR. In communities around MTR mines, like the one I was raised in, there are increased rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, developmental diseases, over 50 percent greater likelihood of having a deadly cancer, and the life expectancy is 24 years below the national average, and if that doesn't qualify as a human rights violation, then I'm not really sure what does. So we're here to demand that this be stopped.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So they're up there, and I was talking to them before I got kicked out, but it seems extreme. They are locked in so tightly with those U-locks, I can't imagine how they're going to get them out of there without hurting them, or burning them or whatever it is they're going to do. So, do you think taking that kind of action – which seems fairly extreme – is really justified?

TYLER CANNON: These actions are what people call extreme and radical, but what is extreme and radical is detonating up to 1,100 feet of a mountain and then filling the valley below with the remnants, which they deem "overburden." They commodify the earth and destroy it. And they destroy the air, the water, the people and any hope of prosperity for these communities. And the idea that an extractive industry, an extractive culture, can be made into one that is sustainable, is foolish. Clean coal is a lie. So we've been driven to these lengths. The validity of our demands has not been recognized by neither the state nor corporate giants like UBS or Alpha or Peabody or Patriot.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Does UBS fund all those companies you just mentioned, or did you just mention them because they're involved in MTR?

TYLER CANNON: UBS funds these industries through a really twisted corporate buffer, and if you research further into this corporate buffer through stock holdings and the like, you'll see the intersectionality between all extractive industries. For example, one of the top shareholders in UBS is Vanguard. Vanguard is also the number two shareholder in ExxonMobil. So if you're telling me that what's happening here is extreme, I think what's happening in the economy is extreme. What's happening to poor people in rural areas, in urban areas, I think that is extreme.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't see what happened here, but what is the message – you're coming from the coal fields – what is the message that you want to give people in Connecticut, most of whom, I'm sure, have never heard of MTR?

TYLER CANNON: There is no desegregation of civil liberties on behalf of the people who are having them taken away alone. It needs to be an act of solidarity from the privileged to the underprivileged. We need people all across the nation – not just in Connecticut, from coast to coast – to stand for clean air and clean water and space for a clean life.

This report on the Nov. 25 Stamford protest against Swiss banking giant UBS for their role in financing mountaintop removal coal mining was produced by Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus. For more information on opposition to mountaintop removal coal mining and the groups that organized this direct action, visit

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