Poor People's Campaign

God’s people can’t allow power brokers to run roughshod over the poor, Bishop Barber says 

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]

After a brief delay caused by law enforcement officers who threatened to arrest congregants, the Poor People’s Campaign held its Palm Sunday service near a dirty coal plant in West Virginia that pays $500,000 a year to Sen. Joe Manchin, who then blocks climate change bills that would improve the lives of all but especially poor and low-wealth people. 

Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, led the service at the gates of the Grant Town Power Plant at the invitation of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign. Law enforcement officers threatened to arrest congregants but then agreed on an area for the service. 

“While profiting from the Grant Town Power Plant, Manchin has obstructed President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act,” Bishop Barber said in prepared remarks. 

Manchin refused to back the bill if it included the Clean Electricity Performance Program, a key climate provision that would have given federal grants to utilities which increase the electricity they get from renewable sources. He also objected to the extended Child Tax Credit, paid family leave and other anti-poverty measures.

About 70% of Manchin’s own constituents benefited from the Child Tax Credit last year, and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found that an extension of the monthly payments “would drive an historic reduction in child poverty, lifting 22,000 West Virginia children above the poverty line.”

“There are 4 million children who experienced what it was like to not be poor for six months last year, but were pushed back into poverty this year because of Joe Manchin’s obstruction,” Bishop Barber said. “When you know these things as a believer in Jesus you can’t stand down, you have to stand up.be awake and stand down. Our faces are set like flint. We can’t, as God’s people, keep allowing power brokers to run roughshod over poor people and communities. We can’t see what greed is doing and say nothing. You cannot watch a man act like a modern-day Caesar and just be OK with it.”

(Photo by Steve Pavey/Poor People’s Campaign/Repairers of the Breach/Kairos Center)

Sen. Manchin makes $500,000 per year from Enersystems, a company that his son runs, and that delivers coal waste to the Grant Town Power Plant. Sen. Manchin, who has blocked federal climate change legislation, kept the plant in business as governor by helping raise rates on residents. 

The WVPPC, the PPC:NCMR and partner organizations are demanding that Manchin change his ways and  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. 

Rev. Dr. Theoharis greeted the Sunday crowd. 

“We want to welcome you to this Palm Sunday service here in Grant town in front of this dirty coal plant,” she said. “And we know that Palm Sunday is when a mule train led by some activists, some poor folk who were trying to reign in a reign of justice and love and peace, protested their way into places of economic and political power and said, we’re not afraid we will go. And we will put ourselves out there as we organize to bring justice and peace. And all a place for all God’s creation to be.”

The WVPPC began the week with a 23-mile march, starting Tuesday in Harpers Ferry. It included a rally Wednesday outside the Rockwool insulation plant in Ranson, which residents have fought for four years even after it was built last year, and a rally Saturday outside Sen. Manchin’s office in Martinsburg. The marchers then joined a blockade at the coal plant led by West Virginia Rising during which 16 people were arrested. 

The West Virginia march is another step on the way to the June 18th Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. On Monday, the New York Poor People’s Campaign will hold a Moral March on Wall Street beginning at 5 p.m. ET at Bowling Green Park. 

The videos from the weeklong march, rallies, blockade and Sunday service can be viewed on the Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page.