Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content

Coal Mine Violence in 1989


The United Mine Workers of America went on strike against Pittston Coal Group and New Beckley Mine. Almost immediately the coal fields of southwest Virginia, West Virginia, and adjoining states erupted with confrontations between striking and non-striking workers and law enforcement officers.

Photo of marshals and pickets in West Virginia
A Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, back to camera, explains a court order to two pickets at the gate to a mine owned by the Twin Branch Coal Company in West Virginia. Deputy Marshals, third from left and far right, were part of the Marshals Service contingent sent to enforce court orders when the United Mine Workers of America went on strike. Photo - John Himelrick / Charleston Daily Mail
U.S. Marshals and coal demonstrators
Deputy Marshals, far left and middle of photo, arrest mine workers for blocking a bridge leading to the Rum Creek Coal plant, damaging a truck, and assaulting federal officers. Photo - AP/Wide World Photos

In the course of the myriad of civil and criminal litigation that followed, the task fell to the Marshals Service to enforce the orders of the Courts.

This required Marshals Service personnel to restore order, ensure access to coal fields and public utilities, and prevent violence among the literally thousands of people, throughout the vast geographical region and under the most dangerous circumstances.

Immediate meetings with union officials, mine personnel, and supporters, coupled with a 24-hour a day Marshals Service presence, brought an end to most of the long-standing violence. In southwest Virginia, the Virginia State Police provided extensive support to the Marshals in dealing with the crisis.

Charged with enforcing state law and court orders in connection with the strike, the State Police were sent en masse to southwest Virginia and worked side-by-side with Deputy Marshals. Although most of the issues surrounding the original strike against Pittson were resolved, confrontations continued in Logan County, West Virginia. Marshals arrested five pickets for blocking a bridge leading to coal operations, damaging a truck, and assaulting Deputy Marshals.