Harlan Daily Enterprise
Hoping for 20,000 people to line U.S. 25E on Aug. 11 from the Knox/Bell county line to the Cumberland Gap Tunnel in Middlesboro, organizer of the event and owner of Harris Printing in Pineville, Joe Harris said he believes a record will be set for this event. Harris said if the 20,000 participants line the road hand-in-hand for 17 miles, it will be the largest coal rally assembly ever in the United States.
“I’m doing this for my brothers and sisters across eastern Kentucky so that we can all pull together and save our communities,” said Harris.” After driving home one day and having this thought in my head of putting together this event to gain attention to our plight, I posted the suggestion on Facebook at about 11 p.m. It went wild and has continued to grow every day.”
Harris said not only are coal miners and their families participating in this event, but businesses, churches and other citizens have bound together to show their support for this cause and to try and help their neighbors. He said sections of the roadway are being adopted by businesses, churches and families. When a section is adopted they will be responsible for filling their section with people.
“We have a lot of the highway adopted, but there’s still room for more,” said Harris. “We’ve got church buses and coal miners coming from Pike, Knox, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Bell and Harlan counties. We’ll be lining up on the south side of the highway and if it fills up we’ll just line up on the north side also. I’ve had 262,000 hits on my Facebook account interested in this event.”
Harris said being a business owner he knows how coal industry layoffs have affected his business and many other businesses around him.
“We have to stand together — united in this cause,” said Harris. “Coal affects every aspect of our communities. Everybody needs to come out and show their support. We have permission from the federal government to stand on the roadway near the tunnel and permission from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to stand on U.S. 25. We have the Kentucky Coal Association, Friends of Coal and Coal Mining Our Future joining with us in support of this event. Signs have been purchased by Bell County Coal and Teco Coal. There are T-shirts available for purchase at V.I.P. Tees in Harlan and Harris Printing in Pineville, for $10, in support of this rally. These T-shirts are not mandatory.”
Harris said it’s very important to be early and get lined up before 2 p.m. because at precisely 2 p.m. filming from helicopters and news media will begin. He said at exactly 2:30 p.m. everyone will hold hands and a 17-mile prayer will be said for coal miners and their families, the coal industry and communities across eastern Kentucky.
“Businesses are opening their parking lots for people to park,” said Harris. “We have the Patriot Riders Motorcycle Club participating in the event also. We still have sections of road left to adopt, so if anyone is interested in adopting a section of road they may email me at email@example.com or Facebook message me at Joe A. Harris. You may also go to the “Hands of Coal Across Bell County” event page and like it. It will then ask if you are going and then give you the opportunity to invite all your Facebook friends to the event. Just remember, you need to be on the road in place before 2 p.m. There will be no line up in Harlan County, it must be on U.S. 25 from Knox county through Pineville to Middlesboro.”
Harris said in conjunction with the Bell County rally, Pike County will host another “Hands of Coal Across Pike County” event on Oct. 13 and everyone is encouraged to make plans to attend this event also.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org