West Virginia Rising
16 activists who were arrested on Saturday for blockading the coal-fired Grant Town Power Plant that burns coal waste to profit U.S. Senator Joe Manchin were released from jail overnight. On Sunday, activists returned to the plant for a Palm Sunday service to continue their call for Manchin to stop blocking passage of the federal Build Back Better bill.
“Our part of the country has been used as a dumping ground. They take what they need to make money and leave us a mess. We want clean air, safe water and we want to take care of our community,” said Dee Thomas, 55, a lifelong resident of Fairmont and member of a coal miner family. “And the biggest hindrance is Manchin and his cronies.”
On Saturday, hundreds of West Virginia residents and climate change activists protested outside of the plant for several hours on Saturday to bring light to the fact that not only has Manchin been stalling efforts to address climate change, but he is also personally benefiting from the continuation of fossil fuels that are creating climate chaos in US communities — including the ones he represents. More than a dozen West Virginia residents, some whom live within miles of the plant, spoke at the rally along with Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign who met the group marching 23-miles through West Virginia spotlighting Sen. Manchin’s abandonment of poor and low-wealth people
“The nonviolent protest at Joe Manchin’s dirty coal operation exposes the political cruelty of the West Virginia senator, who helped this power plant at every step of his political career,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “The things he blocks hurt the poor and low-income people of his own state. And we know that poor and low-wealth people suffer the most when Sen. Manchin cooperates with extremists and treats our children and earth as expendable line items for profit.”
Some of the activists and faith leaders returned to the plant gates on Sunday morning for a Palm Sunday prayer service. Bishop Barber called on Machin to “repent” from blocking anti-poverty policies in the Build Back Better Act, which he said “would only be a half step” towards addressing poverty and the need for recovery for families who face deepening poverty in the wake of the the COVID epidemic.
For decades, Manchin’s company has exclusively sold the plant the dirty “gob” coal waste it burns. As an elected official on the state and federal levels, Manchin intervened to allow its construction, undermine its environmental regulation, and steeply raise the energy rates it charges West Virginians. More recently, Manchin has emerged as the key swing vote blocking federal climate change legislation.
The Grant Town blockade was organized by West Virginia Rising with support from young climate activists from across the country. Participants camped out on property close by to the plant for two days in preparation for the protest, displaying banner including “Manchin: Stop Burning WV’s Future For Profit.”
The plant blockade is part of an international movement aimed at more direct action events demanding climate action. Climate scientists have warned against dire impacts around the world if quick actions aren’t taken to reduce carbon emissions from burning coal and other fossil fuels.