WILLIAMSON – Hundreds clad in orange mining stripes and pro coal T-shirts stood braving thunderstorms and periods of heavy rain in protest of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s arrival in downtown Williamson on Monday.
Clutching Friends of Coal signs, homemade pro-coal signs and several Donald Trump posters, protesters made feelings known; booing and chanting as the presidential hopeful made her entrance into the Williamson Health and Wellness Center to hold a roundtable discussion with community and state leaders.
Across the street from the protesters, local law enforcement agencies lined the street. In preparation for the protests, Sheriff James Smith made a comment to the citizens of Mingo County on the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page urging residents to protest peacefully. The statement explained that although he did not endorse Clinton, the Sheriff’s Department had a responsibility to ensure the safety of Mingo County residents. The statement on social media stated, “As everyone knows, Hillary Clinton will be visiting Williamson, W.Va. Monday May 2, 2016. If you feel that you need to protest, I ask that you do it respectively and peacefully as possible.”
Local law enforcement and Secret Service clad in suits were in full force on Second Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Williamson.
Among the protesters was former CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship. Blankenship stood with protesters and made an appearance in photos shared on social media and broadcast on local news stations.
Also apparent among protesters was disproval of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s endorsement of Clinton. Protesters chanted “Traitor Joe” upon Manchin’s arrival.
Several of those in protest of Clinton also took to social media expressing disproval of the Williamson Health and Wellness Center. In response to the backlash, Dr. Dino Beckett, CEO of the Williamson Health and Wellness Center composed a letter which was uploaded Monday evening to the Williamson Health and Wellness Facebook page. The letter addressed to friends, family and community members states, “Today, we hosted presidential candidate former Secretary Hillary Clinton, who requested to visit us. This is the first time that a presidential candidate has visited Williamson or even Mingo County since John F. Kennedy in 1960. We saw this as an unprecedented opportunity to share our concerns about our future and showcase what we are doing here at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC). “
The letter continues stating, “To be clear, WHWC does not endorse any particular candidate. In fact, we welcome any and all candidates to visit our clinic and talk to our people. It is in this spirit we welcome Secretary Clinton to town to elevate our work to broader national audiences. WHWC is working hard to empower our residents to turn it around through a variety of initiatives, including entrepreneurship, an innovation hub, local agriculture and community outreach. It’s part of a larger “learning journey,” a model to engage leaders from around the world to build a strategy to create resilient and sustainable future. If you have questions of concerns, please feel free to reach us at [email protected] or come to the Williamson Health and Wellness Center.”
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)