(UPDATE: 4/11/22, 4:25 p.m.)

During the protest on Saturday at the Grant Town Power Plant, 16 arrests were made, according to a Tweet from West Virginia Rising.

Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Riffle confirmed on Monday that several of those arrests were for battery on officers and conspiracy.

Riffle explained that for the most part, the protesters were peaceful and cooperative and the majority of those who were detained were released later on the same day.

“We did have an incident on the back end where several, a small number of those assembled, attempted to gain access to the actual grounds of the power plant. And they were informed that they could not do so, and they made physical contact with several of the officers there and were arrested and charged with battery on officers and conspiracies,” said Sheriff Riffle.

Sheriff Jimmy Riffle comments on the protest arrests

According to Riffle, those who were charged were sent to North Central Regional Jail where they were arraigned and posted bail. None of them were in the jail as of Monday morning.

Sheriff Riffle said throughout the protest there was never any threat to the general public and feels the officers all did well in the situation.  

“I think there was more cooperation from those attending the protest than those trying to cause problems. So, we maintained an open conversation with them. They had people in place to speak to us and we could speak to them, and they could relay what was going on to the folks gathered to protest,” he said.  

No injuries were reported in the arrests and citations that were made. 

A representative from Senator Joe Manchin’s office said in a statement, “Senator Manchin has always supported the right of every West Virginian to peacefully protest as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”  

(ORIGINAL: 4/9/22, 6:46 p.m.)

GRANT TOWN, W.Va. – Approximately 100 protesters were outside of the Grant Town Power Plant gate demonstrating their right to a peaceful protest against Senator Joe Manchin’s climate policies on Saturday, April 9.

“You know, I don’t want him to think that I’m here to like ‘tear Manchin down’. I am here because I know the effects that coal has, and it’s not positive anymore, it’s just not,“ said Rylee Haught, one of the attending West Virginia activists.

Protester and speaker at the peaceful assembly, Rylee Haught speaks to West Virginians about the coal industry

Police officials were able to prepare for the protest in advance because it was planned. They acknowledged the protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and explained where they were permitted to stand.

“There was a boundary that they could not cross onto private property. Once that line was crossed, those that chose to do so were arrested for trespassing,” said Jim Riffle, Marion County Sheriff.

According to the West Virginia Rising Twitter account, 16 of their members were arrested at the protest. Other arrests were also made.

Protesters questioned Senator Manchin’s ability to make decisions. “He’s had decades to talk to West Virginians, and I just don’t think he is with the times as far as understanding how desperately we need to address the climate crisis now, even here in West Virginia where we really rely on coal, we’ve got to start transitioning and we’ve got to do it in a way that puts Appalachians first,” said Haught.

Protesters came in groups and shared their message.

Haught’s family has lived in West Virginia for generations. She said she wants opportunities to continue to exist here for her and other young West Virginians.

“West Virginians are here, young West Virginians who care about this state are here, we’ve been showing up, we’ve been organizing, and nationally people don’t see it, but West Virginians see it, and we will continue to be here until our economy is okay until our people are okay,” Haught said.

Protesters raised signs and blankets plastered with messages against Senator Manchin’s climate policies while they chanted with megaphones. A message protesters repeated was that Senator Manchin personally benefits from the plant’s operation, claiming that he makes $500,000 dollars each year.