Front Porch Blog

Virginians For Justice: Progress Not Pipelines!

“Poor people’s lives are disrupted and dislocated every day. We want to put a stop to this. Poverty, racism and discrimination cause families to be kept apart, men to become desperate, women to live in fear, and children to starve.”

These words of Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared on a grassroots brochure from 1968 announcing plans for the Poor People’s Campaign March on Washington D.C. that spring to issue an urgent call for economic justice.

It was a historic event, and marked an important convergence of voices from a variety of interests in this singular demand. On May 18, 1968, the marchers crossed the Robert E. Lee Bridge over the James River in Richmond on their way to D.C.

Fast forward 51 years, to May 17, 2019, when hundreds of people — black, white, young, old, gay, straight, rich and poor — took the same route across the bridge into Richmond to demand environmental justice for all Virginians and to demand action from state leaders to stop fracked-gas pipelines in the commonwealth. It was the first day of a two-day event called “Virginians For Justice: Progress Not Pipelines!” which Appalachian Voices was honored to help plan, along with many other organizations (listed at the end of this post). The joint events were designed to unite Virginians from all across the state in common cause to oppose unjust and unneeded fracked-gas pipelines anywhere in the commonwealth, and to stand in solidarity for environmental justice and the climate.

Videos, photos, more

Channel 8 coverage of Friday’s march

Photos of Friday’s march, by Parker Michels-Boyce

Video of Richmond march, courtesy David Martin

Powerful op-ed by Del. Sam Rasoul on how, and why, the state should stop both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines

Short video of faith leaders, courtesy of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

End Environmental Racism Now: March With Union Hill

The day in Richmond saw upwards of 300 people march and rally in solidarity with the black community in Buckingham County targeted for a massive industrial compressor for the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline being proposed by Dominion Energy. John Laury, a descendant of slaves and the freedmen who established Union Hill, spoke of the impact the compressor would have on his farm, his community and his cherished sense of place and heritage. Beth Roach, a tribal council member of the Nottoway Tribe of Virginia, spoke of the sacredness of all lands in Virginia, and beyond, to Native Americans.

Guest speakers included Karenna Gore, director of the Center for Earth Ethics, and William Barber, III, an associate with The Climate Reality Project and Co-chair of the N.C. Poor People’s Campaign Ecological Justice Committee, whose father, the Rev. William Barber II, led the modern-day revival of King’s Poor People’s Campaign from his home state of North Carolina.

Gore, quoting from King’s sermons and reading the written history of blacks of Buckingham County by local resident Charles White, delivered an impassioned, moral case for stopping the pipeline and the injustices it would render in the Union Hill community. Barber III called on leaders in Virginia and at the national level to take immediate action on climate, including halting expansion of all fracked gas infrastructure.

Members of several faith communities — Protestant, Buddhist, Baptist, Jewish — also addressed the crowd and marched arm-in-arm across the Lee bridge, while musicians from the SUN SING collective drummed out the pace and later performed at Oregon Hill Overlook.

Herring, Stand With Appalachia: No Mountain Valley Pipeline

In a show of solidarity, some of the same folks joined new people on Saturday in Leesburg, the hometown of Attorney General Mark Herring, where they called on the state’s top law enforcer to call an immediate halt to work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The citizens also called on Herring to pursue his lawsuit against the pipeline for some 300 water quality violations, and to stand up for the state’s authority to revoke the project’s water quality permit.

Karenna Gore was once again with the group, and was joined by other speakers including Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, Virginia Delegates Chris Hurst, Elizabeth Guzman and Sam Rasoul, and professor Emily Hammond, George Washington University Law School.

Supporters of the events include:
POWHR – Protect Our Water Heritage Rights
Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA)
Friends of Buckingham County
Appalachian Voices
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
350 Loudoun
Food & Water Watch – Virginia
Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice
Sierra Club Virginia Chapter – Falls of the James Group
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Virginia Interfaith Power & Light
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Wild Virginia
Climate Reality Project – Northern Virginia Chapter
Water is Life. Protect It.
The SUN SiNG Collective
Concern for the New Generation
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Indivisible Northern Virginia
Indivisible NoVA West
Indivisible New River Valley
Indivisible Charlottesville
Indivisible Climate Coalition for Virginia and West Virginia
NextGen Virginia
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Concern for the New Generation
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
ARTivism Virginia
Virginia’s Poor People’s Campaign
People Demanding Action
Friends of Nelson

About Cat McCue

Although not native to the region, Cat feels deeply connected to the mountains, rivers, backroads and small towns of Appalachia she has come to know over the years. She is Appalachian Voices' Senior Communications and Public Engagement Strategist.


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