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Restraining order sought for rally at energy symposium

Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell's courtroom regarding a petition for a restraining order filed by St. Mary's Medical Center against a rally planned outside the St. Mary's Conference Center Tuesday afternoon.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coaltion (OHVEC) has planned a rally in opposition to the St. Mary's center hosting a Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce event in which a representative of the coal industry will be the keynote speaker.

The Chamber's Energy and Natural Resource Symposium is planned for 3 p.m. Tuesday. The keynote address will be given by Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, president and CEO for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the use of coal.

A spokeswoman for St. Mary's said hospital is seeking the restraining order mostly to prevent interference with the daily services that go on at the facility, also home to the St. Mary's School of Nursing.

Janet Keating, OHVEC's executive director, said the rally is based on the principle that it's inappropriate for a facility meant to heal to host an event promoting coal mining, which numerous medical studies have linked to health problems.

"There's been a lot of silence from our state leaders about these health studies and the impacts on communities around coal," Keating said. "It's a mystery to me why a hospital would want to host this. Our whole thing is, 'Let's not have it at a hospital, where you're supposed to be helping people.'"

She said the organization has a reputation for peaceful protests and those who join the rally will be asked to remain on the sidewalks outside the property, which is located near the corner of 5th Avenue and 29th Street.

"We had no intention to be on their property or at the hospital," she said.

Angela Henderson-Bentley, manager of public relations for the hospital, said St. Mary's Medical Center respects the First Amendment rights of the protestors and recognizes that opposing viewpoints may exist on this issue.

"Our fundamental role is to protect the integrity of the healthcare and education services we've provided for nearly 90 years," she said. "That is why we have asked the court to intervene to make sure the picketing does not interfere with access to our 5th Avenue and 3rd Avenue campuses in Huntington."

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