Seven arrested in Charleston protesting Manchin, Senate filibuster
"We have to be the ones to disrupt business-as-usual. We have to be willing to say, ‘This injustice will not continue without me putting my body and my freedom and my heart and spirit in the way.'"
By DOUGLAS J HARDING
Seven protestors, among a group of others, were arrested Monday for blocking the street in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston.
The protest was organized in-part by W.V. Rising. A post made Monday night via @WV_Rising Twitter account states:
“They were not arrested for trespassing. They were not arrested for disturbing the peace. They were arrested for resisting injustice. They were arrested for resisting Joe Manchin. If anyone should be arrested it’s Manchin. He took over $500,000 from the coal company he founded at the exact same time that he single-handedly nixed the most important climate bill in history. This is heinous and we will not sit idly by and let this happen.”
A prior post from the account indicates each of the seven arrested protestors were released Monday with court dates pending.
“Manchin may have cops and cronies and mafiosos,” the post continues. “What he doesn’t have is a movement.”
Kai Newkirk, one of the protestors, said he has a unique perspective on the current moment in U.S. politics as someone born-and-raised in West Virginia—the state Sen. Manchin represents—and who now lives in Arizona, the state represented by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
“We are here today struggling to save the soul of America. We understand that there is a crisis in our nation and on our planet. We love our country and we love the state of West Virginia, and when you love something, you have to fight for it,” Newkirk said. “We understand that right now, our climate on this one precious planet that we have is in chaos. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the largest scientific project in the history of humankind, said we have three years in which greenhouse gas emissions have to peak and start coming down in order to stop the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Have we done anything about that? No, we haven’t, but we elected Democrats to do just that.”
A Washington Post article from last month covering the referenced IPCC climate report states that “With the world on track to blaze past its climate goals, only immediate, sweeping societal transformation can stave off catastrophic warming.”
The article goes on to state:
“The IPCC makes clear that for all the technological challenges of transforming the world’s energy supply—and the added difficulty of doing it as fast as possible—a primary obstacle to expansive action remains political. Long-standing infrastructure and ingrained habits make it difficult for people to switch to more sustainable practices. Policies that would curb carbon emissions get blocked by ‘incumbent fossil fuel interests,’ researchers say. Elected officials have largely been unwilling to choose policies they fear could cost them the next election when the benefits might not be felt for several more decades.”
Newkirk said the climate emergency is just one of many ongoing crises facing Americans and requiring an urgent solution.
“At the same time, we know working families in this state and across this land are struggling still. Right now, through this pandemic, billionaires have gained trillions of dollars of wealth while so many essentials workers went to work to keep this country going and died,” he said. “And have we raised their wages? Have we done anything to lift them up? No, but we need to, and that’s what we elected Democrats to do. Manchin and Sinema are standing in the way. They are putting their corporate donors and an abused Senate rule—the filibuster—ahead of our people, ahead of our democracy and ahead of our climate. And we are here today to say, ‘No more!’”
Newkirk said the current moment in American politics calls for more than polite political discourse as an adequate response.
“We understand that when we are facing an emergency like this, it’s not enough just to tweet about it or just to post on Facebook or just to talk to our friends about it,” Newkirk said. “We have to be willing to struggle like our ancestors did. We have to be willing to sacrifice. And sometimes, we have to disrupt business-as-usual, just as Dr. King did, as John Lewis did, as Cesar Chavez did, as Dolores Huerta did, as the suffragettes did, as the sit-down strikers did... This time, we have to be the ones to disrupt business-as-usual. We have to be willing to say, ‘This injustice will not continue without me putting my body and my freedom and my heart and spirit in the way.’”
Rylee Haught, another of the protestors, said Sen. Manchin is guilty of valuing the interests of corporations and billionaires more than the needs of his struggling constituents.
“On top of the greed of Big Pharma, the coal barons in this state, just like Sen. Manchin, have allowed workplace conditions to remain unsafe, have allowed for our main industry to die out without a replacement, and have extracted our resources and labor just for their own wallets,” Haught said.
Haught said Sen. Manchin’s usual explanation of constantly seeking—and failing to actually find or to forge—bi-partisan compromise in Washington, D.C. is merely a tired excuse for his true motives.
“Manchin will claim that he makes decisions out of bi-partisan collaboration and compromise, but I have watched him claim to be compromising while just letting the bills die with the excuse that he tried so hard to reach across the aisle and it just couldn’t be done,” Haught said. “He will claim that he’s communicating with West Virginians, but he hasn’t once spoken to me or Un-PAC himself despite us consistently requesting constituency meetings. The truth is: He does not care about our futures. He only cares about his future as a millionaire oligarch.”
Haught said she has knocked on hundreds of doors as an Un-PAC organizer and made constant calls to Sen. Manchin’s office. She has also participated in a hunger strike with other fellow activists and has been arrested in the past for protesting Sen. Manchin’s actions.
“Today, I risk arrest again because just as you’ve let voting rights and John Lewis’ legacy and last piece of legislation die, you’ve let West Virginians die from overdoses, from black lung disease, from a lack of mine safety, from inaccessible and expensive health care—and the list goes on,” Haught said. “You should be ashamed to face your constituents who have lost their jobs in the coal mines with no alternatives. You should be ashamed to face your constituents with black lung disease who cannot afford their hospital bills. You should be ashamed to face your constituents who constantly go under boil water advisories because of [chemicals] in our water. You should be ashamed to face your constituents who’ve been overprescribed painkillers and forced to jump through countless hoops to access harm reduction treatments that save their lives... You should be ashamed, Sen. Manchin, because you have blood on your hands.”
The West Virginia Holler is an affiliate of The Tennessee Holler and is powered, in part, by West Virginia Can’t Wait. Follow the Holler on Twitter @HollerWV and Instagram @WVHoller. We're on Facebook too! Follow writer Douglas J. Harding @douglasjharding.
Manchin was in Davis this day 😆