Nonunion coal trucks smashed through a United Mine Workers blockade yesterday, damaging the cars of striking miners, who retaliated by burning one truck and pelting the others with rocks, officials said.
Police said as many as 1,000 pickets had assembled a line of vehicles near the Sprouse Creek Processing Co. plant and adjacent Rawl Sales & Processing Co., both subsidiaries of A.T. Massey Coal Co., in an attempt to halt deliveries of coal for processing.
Rawl Sales president Don Blankenship said the coal drivers drove through the blockade of cars because they "feared for their lives" when approached by a half-dozen pickets carrying handguns. He said the windshields of all 16 coal trucks were smashed, one truck was burned and some of the drivers suffered minor injuries.
Police said they could not confirm that some of the pickets carried guns, but state police Cpl. B.L. Baker said 10 cars owned by the miners were damaged.
The union has been on strike against Massey since last Oct. 1, when the company refused to sign the national agreement reached by the UMW and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. Massey has insisted on separate negotiations for each of its subsidiaries, while the union is seeking a company-wide agreement.
Earlier, police had reported four arrests stemming from rock-throwing in the area.