Poor People's Campaign

Martha Waggoner| [email protected]
Lauren Zehyoue| [email protected] 

HARPERS FERRY, WEST VIRGINIA _ The West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign continues its march against Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday with a rally at the foreign-owned Rockwool Ranson insulation plant located across the street from an elementary school. 

The second day of the 23-mile march from Harpers Ferry to Martinsburg will conclude with a rally at the plant, beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday at a bike path across the street from the plant. The plant is located across the street from North Jefferson Elementary School. 

The rally can be viewed here

The WVPPC invited the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival to join the march, which began Tuesday with a launch that included remarks from the national co-chairs, Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. 

It focuses on Sen. Manchin’s relationship with corporate elites to the point of risking the lives of his own constituents. His disregard for West Virginians while using their name to grandstand nationally is a disgrace to those he claims to represent. The people of West Virginia have had enough, and have come together to show that he does not speak for them. 

During the rally on Tuesday at historic Storer College in Harpers Ferry, several West Virginians gave their testimonies. 

Katrina Fernandez, a mother of eight who lives near the chemical plant and has a child attending North Jefferson Elementary School, talked about how her child has been in the hospital multiple times with severe asthma attacks. 

“My children mean the world to me – every last one of them,” she said. “And I’m not going to stop fighting until I know what’s in the air – what’s in their drinking water.” 

The WVPPC, the PPC:NCMR and partner organizations are demanding that Manchin move from policy cruelty to compassion and from policy meanness to mercy to help not just the 40% of West Virginians who are poor or low-income – 710,000 people – but the 140 million nationally who are since his votes hurt not just his constituents but people across the country. 

Bishop Barber said that the PPC:NCMR loves Sen. Manchin as a human being. 

“We despise his policies because his policies are full of hate and meanness. How do you just vote to block living wages that would have lifted 310,000 West Virginians out of poverty? One vote! How do you block the BBB that would have helped miners;  you know money for miners was in that Build Back Better plan, the environment, or paid family leave health care. That’s just mean.”

Stll, “we actually want him to be a great senator,” Bishop Barber said. “We would like to see him be a consequential Senator for righteousness.”

Figures compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies last year showed that the $3.5 trillion (over 10 years) version of BBB would have: created 17,290 new jobs in West Virginia; benefited 346,000 children by extending the expanded child tax credit; and allowed an additional 88,050 people to take paid leave each year. 

The West Virginia is one of several actions that the PPC:NCMR is joining ahead of the 

Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls on June 18th.”

Rev. Dr. Theoharis said that it’s immoral and wrong “that today in the state of West Virginia, there are 710,000 people who are poor and low-income in this beautiful, rich, beautiful, abundant land. It is immoral and it’s wrong that hundreds of thousands of people make less than a living wage; that the coal companies and industry can come in and steal, rob from the people that are living in this state.”

Stewart Acuff, who lives in Jefferson County and is part of the WV PPC, said the Rockwool plant 

“spews fossil fuel particulate pollution in our air and polluted runoff in our water. Despite overwhelming community opposition Rockwool built their factory less than a quarter mile from an elementary and a low wage working class neighborhood. We have fought that factory for four years. Rockwool is so committed to profit over people that they refuse to close their factories in Russia, thus aiding Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine.”

Both Storer College and the town of Harpers Ferry are deeply connected to the civil rights movement. Storer was a historically Black college that opened in 1867 and served both Black and white students at times. It hosted the first American meeting of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor to the NAACP, in 1906. 

Other actions for the march include: 

_ April 9: Rally at Sen. Manchin’s office in Martinsburg and then support West Virginia Rising in its blockade at Manchin’s coal plant in Grant Town that afternoon. 

_ April 10: Bishop Barber and Rev. Dr. Theoharis preach a Palm Sunday service across the street from Manchin’s dirty coal plant in Grant Town. 

Last week, the New York Times published an article titled “How Joe Manchin Aided Coal, and Earned Millions.

“At every step of his political career, Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that is the sole customer of his private coal business,” the article said. “Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action.”