“This is a moral issue, a constitutional issue, and we’re gonna stand and fight against it—even if we gotta go to jail.”
Rev. Dr. William Barber II said late Monday that West Virginians are prepared to stage non-violent sit-ins at Sen. Joe Manchin’s office to protest the Democratic lawmaker’s ongoing obstruction of key voting rights legislation, opposition to an ambitious infrastructure package, and support for the 60-vote filibuster rule.
“He’s serving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, not the U.S. Constitution,” Barber said in an appearance on MSNBC as he and hundreds of others with the Poor People’s Campaign rallied in Charleston, West Virginia to denounce Manchin’s stonewalling of popular and urgent legislation, including the For the People Act.
One recent poll found that more than two-thirds of West Virginia voters support the For the People Act, which would counter hundreds of Republican-authored voter suppression bills that are making their way through state legislatures across the nation.
“By filibustering, he’s blocking, he’s blocking the things that his state needs. He’s standing against his own state. They didn’t send him there for that,” continued Barber, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “Why would a senator from West Virginia have his office in the lotto building? Maybe because he’s gambling with people’s healthcare, he’s gambling with people’s living wages, he’s gambling with people’s voting rights.”
Around 350 people took part in Monday’s event in Charleston, which ended with a march on Manchin’s office. There demonstrators were met by members of the West Virginia senator’s staff, who—according to the Associated Press—”offered comment cards to collect protestors’ grievances.”
“We don’t want to talk to the staff,” Barber reportedly told the aides.
In his MSNBC interview Monday, Barber said the people of West Virginia are ready to hold “non-violent sit-ins at [Manchin’s] office” if he continues to abet Republican voter suppression. Since the beginning of the year, according to the latest tally from the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 Republican-led states have enacted 22 laws that restrict voting rights.
“When you suppress the vote, guess what? You hurt poor folk in the mountains, you hurt Black folk in the city, you hurt everybody,” Barber added. “This is about right versus wrong. This is a moral issue, a constitutional issue, and we’re gonna stand and fight against it—even if we gotta go to jail.”
The For the People Act is expected to hit the Senate floor for a full vote at some point later this month, but its chances of passage are virtually non-existent with Manchin vowing to join every Republican senator in opposing the bill despite its popularity across the political spectrum.
Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, has yet to waver in the face of appeals from civil rights leaders and others imploring him to change his position on the bill, which would institute stronger campaign finance rules, expand ballot access nationwide through automatic voter registration, and restrict the ability of states to purge voter rolls.
In opposing the For the People Act, the West Virginia senator is siding with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—who views defeating the voting rights bill as one of his top priorities—and a Koch-funded organization that has been actively lobbying Manchin to maintain his opposition to the bill.
“Joe Manchin isn’t moved by leaders who have spent decades organizing for civil rights,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) tweeted last week. “Manchin isn’t moved by the views of his constituents. Manchin isn’t moved by GOP voter suppression bills in 43 states. Because Manchin is only moved by corporate donors and their agenda.”