Barber leads West Virginia protest against US Sen Manchin

Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, delivers a speech targeting U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Charleston, W.Va. (AP Photo/Cuneyt Dil)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds of protesters upset with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to a sweeping overhaul of U.S. election law marched through West Virginia’s capital city on Monday evening.

Goldsboro’s Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the “Poor People’s Campaign,” denounced the influential moderate Democratic senator and called for a diverse coalition of working people to apply pressure on Manchin, who recently opposed a $15 minimum wage and the price tag of President Joe Biden’s initial $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

“West Virginia needs a real senator,” he thundered at a Charleston park, in front of the crowd.

Then they marched a mile to Manchin’s office. Unable to meet with the senator — an aide told Barber that he was in Washington — leaders of the demonstration affixed a poster-sized protest letter to the front doors of the office building. Rally-goers took turns signing their names on it.

When Manchin’s aides offered comment cards to collect protestors’ grievances, Barber waved them away: “We don’t want to talk to the staff.”

The protest was spurred by Manchin’s decision to oppose a controversial rewrite of U.S. election law, a proposal known as the For the People Act.

As a key senator in a divided chamber, Manchin has frustrated progressive Democrats with his reluctance to support several key agenda items.

Many people from neighboring states, including Kentucky and Maryland, drove and rode on buses to make it to the protest. They held signs and charged Manchin with enabling voter suppression.

He supports legislation that updates the Voting Rights Act to reinstate a requirement that new voting laws and legislative districts in certain states be subject to federal approval.

Crucially, Manchin opposes eliminating the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster in the Senate, a step that would enable Democrats to pass bills without Republican votes.

Barber, who infamously led “Moral Monday” marches at the General Assembly and was arrested for trespassing in 2013, has become a national figure.

In 2020, he hosted current U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other Democratic candidates at his church and has made multiple appearances with N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen to tout COVID-19 vaccines.

North State Journal asked NCDHHS if Barber had received taxpayer compensation for his appearances with Cohen, which he had not as of early March.

NSJ Staff contributed to this report