Jan 21 2010
07:37 am

Video from the arrest-- (link...)

Press Release: January 21, 2010

United Mountain Defense

Bonnie Swinford

(865) 689-2778


Journalists and Environmentalist Activist Arrested by TVA Police

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., January 21 – On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, United Mountain Defense (UMD) volunteer Matt Landon Jones and two journalists who were reporting on the current clean-up efforts of last year's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash disaster where arrested by TVA police. Last year, a man-made earthen dam containing 50 years of contaminated coal ash erupted, forcing over 1 billion gallons of toxic ash into tributaries of the Tennessee River and devastated the surrounding community. Marking the event anniversary, the reporters were planning to report on the lives of the residents still living in the area as well as the communities receiving train loads of the toxic waste each week from the disaster site. Noticing the train cars filled with coal ash heading to Perry County, Alabama – a poor, predominately African American community where TVA is currently shipping large amounts of the coal ash for storage in a landfill. The journalists stopped to take photographs, at which point they were approached by TVA police. The TVA police detained all three individuals, confiscated their camera and searched their vehicle. The police officer was going to release the individual after writing up citations. The officer was nearly done writing up the citations when he received a phone call. Upon hanging up the phone, the officer told the three individuals that “things had changed.” Instead of issuing warning citations, the officer then arrested and charged all three individuals with criminal trespassing in what can only be described as a gross overreaction. Just prior to the arrest, Jones called fellow UMD volunteer Bonnie Swinford who heard Jones asking the officer if he was being arrested, to which the officer answered "yes". When Jones then asked the officer what he was being arrested for, the officer replied, "I'll get back to you," and took the cell phone away. All three were handcuffed and held on $2,000 bails.

"These arrests are part of a pattern of harassment of UMD volunteers by TVA," said Jones. "TVA has tried to prevent United Mountain Defense from conducting independent water testing, deploying air monitoring, and working with the community of Roane County and they have consistently harassed me while doing this work." In 2009, Jones helped a partially blind Roane County resident get home from a community meeting. Even though the resident explained to TVA police that Jones was simply driving her home, he was arrested, held in jail for 36 hours, and prevented from traveling near the disaster site for seven months before all charges were finally dropped. Other UMD volunteers, journalist, and scientist have experienced continued harassment from TVA officials as well.

TVA's Community Relations Senior Manager Katie Bell Kline was quick to report the incident online to the Roane County Community Advisory Board, erroneously claiming that "TVA Police found the three offenders in and on top of ash-loaded rail cars located on tracks adjacent to the middle road entrance to plant." Only one individual was anywhere near the train. The other two were in the car, as clearly indicated in both the TVA officer's report and in video footage recorded by Jones before his camera was roughly confiscated.

The pattern of harassment that concerned citizens and members of the media have experienced from TVA is unacceptable and has gone on for far too long.

For more information, please contact Bonnie Swinford at 865 689-2778 or Matt Landon Jones at 574 276-9681 or by email at

Video Footage of today’s arrest

TVA Arrests UMD volunteer and two reporters

Video Footage of past TVA harassment of UMD volunteers

Mountain Justice Spring Break Students Harassed by TVA Police - March 15, 2009

UMD volunteer arrested for helping grandmother - March 6, 2009

TVA police harass UMD volunteer while setting up air monitor –March 3, 2009

TVA worker harassment of United Mountain Defense volunteers Kingston Power plant disaster - Dec 29, 2008

Hurricane Creekeepper John Wathen speaks about TVA disaster and TVA police repression.- Dec 28, 2008

TVA has roadblocks set up on the main roads leading to the Swan Pond neighborhood, preventing volunteers from bringing clean water and information. - Dec 27, 2008


About United Mountain Defense
United Mountain Defense (UMD) is a Knoxville based non-profit dedicated to protecting Tennessee's watersheds, air, mountains and communities. We have many years of experience working on issues relating to surface mining and its impacts on communities. A primary focus of UMD has been in scientific data collection, community organizing, and data collection and analysis from federal and state agencies. (link...)

Videos showing a Pattern of TVA Police Harassment

The pattern of harassment that concerned citizens and members of the media have experienced from TVA is unacceptable and has gone on for far too long.

Videos of TVA police harassment

And this is only a SMALL portion of all the video footage of harassment by the TVA police.

To Matt Landon and UMD


It seems you fulfill every point in this quote from TVA CEO Tom Kilgore ((link...)), also discussed elsewhere on RoaneViews:

"We're creating a culture of accountability, so that every individual, not out of fear but out of a sense of proactive duty, takes responsibility individually so the organization can be responsible collectively."

Thank you for helping "creat(e) a culture of accountability" and for having "a sense of proactive duty" and for "tak(ing) responsibility individually" in order to help TVA and the rest of us "be responsible collectively."

If Mr. Kilgore truly means what he says, perhaps TVA should be issuing you commendations instead of arrests.

-- OneTahiti

Matt Landon Jones Has Been Wronged Again!

I hope that Matt sues TVA for what they have done to him. I was there in person when the police harassed him in front of a trailer behind the plant in a trailer park March of 2009. Matt was trying to put up an instrument to take air samples. Why can't the public take air samples along with TVA. Are they hiding something? Of course they are!

If I were on a jury for Matt's case. TVA would definitely not win! TVA has wronged their neighbors badly and the nation is listening.

If you get your arm broken in several places ...

stay out of those places.

Matt Landon has apparently worn out his welcome with TVA. I agree that TVA needs to be held accountable for their actions, but pushing TVA security and local law enforcement is not the way to make sure TVA is doing what they are supposed to do. These antics are not going to help the residents of Swan Pond or the citizens of Roane County. I don’t think Matt is going to reach the status of Erin Brockovich either.

I recommend Matt step back and let some of the other people do the field work. I agree that reporters need access I am sure someone local (Rick, Randy, or others) can help them get to the areas they need to access. I think our community action group can facilitate interviews and tours as necessary.

I guess I need to add the disclaimer that I am not a fan of UMD and I don’t believe we need their “help”.

So let me ask you this,

So let me ask you this, Mike: Was TVA right in ordering the arrest of those two young women simply because Matt Landon Jones was riding in their car?

Not that simple

No, the women should not have been arrested because of their company. If they were trespassing or committing some other crime then yes the arrest was justified beause of who they were with.

Regardless of where you are (TVA, Roane County, NYC), you are judged by the company you keep. You or I might have received a warning or maybe a citation, but they were arrested. I think the police can arrest a person for any offense for which they write citations (at least that was the threat I received when I was acting like a jackass during a traffic stop).

If they did trespass (innocent until proven guilty), were they right to violate the law because they are trying to "help" the community or write a story?

Matt is perceived to be a trouble maker by the local police (TVA or whomever). If the UMD is really interested in helping maybe he should work from the home office and let someone else work in the field. Maybe UMD should back down let local people do the monitoring and sampling.

TVA police were not right

No, TVA police were not right in arresting the two young women simply because Matt Landon Jones was riding in their car. But, they were justified in arresting all three of them for breaking the rules/laws. Saying "I didn't see the sign" is BS. When you go onto property like TVA you know to look for signs like that. Anyone does with common sense. I'm sure that Matt knows where every sign is on the TVA reservation that marks areas as off limits to the public.

I feel that the young women were taken advantage of by Matt so he could get what he wants, notoriety as being the hero that took on TVA. He used these young women the same way he did the older lady the last time he got arrested. There is no doubt in my mind that he lead those two young women into a situation they never expected to be in. He got the attention he wanted and they had to suffer the consequences. If he wants to be the hero that took on TVA that is good, but he needs to stop using people as pawns to do it.

I have nothing against Matt. I think his intentions are good but his tactics are wrong. He should step back and rethink his approach to fighting TVA and come up with a plan that does not pull innocent people, like those two young women, unknowingly into the fight.

If Matt wants to bring a truck load of activist down to TVA and protest, block the roads, or anything else like that, it is fine with me as long as they know what they are getting themselves into. I have been known to willingly participate in activities like that in my younger days because I thought it was the right thing to do. However, allowing people to unknowingly get into those situations is plain wrong in my opinion.

Journalists Should Know

Journalists whether male or female should know what they are getting theirselves into when they approach TVA property or even close to their property. Matt has been arrested before and knew that he could get arrested again. TVA does not like when Matt exposes their wrong doings and are always on the look for him. I worked for DOE sites and know that many things are kept hidden at the sites, because they don't want the public to know what is going on. I know that Matt wants to do the right thing and expose them, but there are risks. We all know that.

I myself volunteered to go take samples of the ash for UMD immediately after the disaster, and ended up sunk into the ash halfway between my knees and thighs. It took me 45 minutes to get out of it. It was like quick sand. I was really scared. The ground I had stepped on looked like regular ground, but apparently ash had pushed the ground out on top of it, with the ash being pushed under it. I was totally surprised when the ground beneath my feet started sinking. The more I moved the deeper I sank. I was not on TVA property, and where we went was a cove where people used to fish, which had been filled with ash. I was so stressed from the whole ordeal, that the next evening I ended up in the hospital with chest pains and had to undergo a procedure where they send a probe up an artery to my heart. If I had known that I would sink in ash like that, I would not have volunteered to do the task.

I do feel that people need to know what they are up against before doing things for groups like UMD. I like the UMD people, but they do need to know how to keep the people safe out of harms way by warning them what could happen.

Again, I do want to stress that I have never in all my dealings with Matt Landon, or any of the other UMD people, seen him or any of them do anything unlawful. Matt Landon Jones always been right in what he was doing. He is a very good and honest man.

The 2 women are journalists

I have a few journalist friends, and I can tell you that if those two journalists who got arrested with Matt Landon are real journalists, they knew what they were getting themselves into. It is their job to have a story told by as many points of view as possible. It is part of a journalist's ethics to have many sides of a story to be as neutral writing their story as possible. Observing and being witness to the behavior of TVA police with activists like Landon is part of their job as journalists. They may be young women to you, but they consider themselves journalists first and foremost. And if we didn't have people like Matt Landon and dedicated investigative journalists in this world, it would be a very sorry place indeed!

We see it differently

I agree with a lot of what you say but I disagree when you say:

"They may be young women to you, but they consider themselves journalists first and foremost."

They should be law abiding citizens first and foremost. When a journalist starts breaking the law to get a story they are throwing ethics out the window. They are not exempt from the law of the land anymore than anyone else.

"Observing and being witness to the behavior of TVA police with activists like Landon is part of their job as journalists."

I agree with that but they should have not broken the law to do it.

If they indeed knew what they were getting themselves into then they knew what the eventual outcome was likely to be. Once they knew what they were getting themselves into and choose to break the law they took on the role of an activist and should have expected to be looked on by the authorities as such. Identifying yourself as a journalist and acting as an activist gives you no immunity from the laws.


"We see it differently"

You consider yourself plural?

"they should have not broken the law to do it"

I thought that in the US of A, land of the free and the brave, people were innocent until proven guilty. You seem to have made up your mind already. Are you a witness of what happened?

Will it be tough for TVA to make a Criminal Trespass Case?

No harm was intended, they stated they did not see the sign, and would have definitely left if they had been allowed.

In Tennessee, the law assumes that the person knew they didn't have the owner's consent if the owner or someone with the authority to act on behalf of the owner personally communicates this fact to her, or if there's a fence around the property, or if there's a sign or other posting on the property that's likely to be seen by intruders.
You may have a defense against criminal trespass if the property was open to the public, or your conduct didn't substantially interfere with the owner's use of the property, or you immediately left the premises when requested.

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