The March Against Manchin kicked off yesterday in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Katrina Fernandez brought six of her children to the kickoff. Some of her children go to school across the street from the new Rockwool facility in Jefferson County.
“One thing I believe firmly in — my children’s education, their health, and just their way of survival. I have a very large family because I was blessed by the adoption of five children to go along with my three biological children,” Fernandez told the gathering of about forty people outside of Storer College in Harpers Ferry. “I’m concerned that my children, after relocating here, are being poisoned and poisoned by a factory that’s allowed to just let chemicals go in the air.”
“Some of my children have respiratory issues. My son is a severe asthmatic. He averages hospitalizations about three to four a year, including emergency room visits. We can’t take any more stuff in our bodies, and I need to know what is being put into the air.”
“I’m very concerned and I’m asking all of our senators and elected officials to speak up with us about it. My children mean the world to me – every last one of them. And I’m not going to stop fighting until I know what’s in the air and what’s in their drinking water. We are directly across the street from Rockwool factory.”
“I don’t like it. My children, some of them have delays already. The first thing we did when we came to Ranson was we were met by a group of people that explained to me the toxics that’s laid out in the air. It’s important that we stand together. I don’t have money to move to another place. I’m here and this is my home.”
“And this is where I chose to raise my family. And I’m hoping that anyone that will listen will stand up with us, too.”
Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign said that “when it comes to issues of poverty, ecological devastation, denial of health care, the war economy, and the false moral narrative religious nationalism, the political leaders are not used to black and white people coming together.”
“When we met at Senator Joe Manchin’s office and we had black and white people together, there was a whole conversation about – how do they get together like that?” Barber said. “Well, first of all, they don’t know the history of his own state. My granddaddy was from West Virginia. That’s one reason I’m here. When you talk about the the war that took place in 1920 – white and black were fighting together. You talk about West Virginia separating from Virginia over the issue of slavery. The nation needs to hear from you. That’s why we’re here.”
“In the Bible, Isaiah says – woe unto those who legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights,” Barber said. “I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m not interested in left versus right. Republican versus Democrat. I’m right versus wrong. I don’t care what damn color they are. I don’t care whether they live in the mountains or in the streets. It’s just wrong to make policies that rob people of their lives.”
Barber said that when he said he was going to West Virginia, people told him – “’you can’t go to West Virginia, the white people there are not going to’ – and I said – just shut up.”
“We love Senator Manchin and we actually want him to be a great senator,” Barber said. “We would like to see him be a consequential senator for righteousness. We would love to see him do what Senator Robert Byrd did and change and become a hero of the things he was for. I don’t hate that man (Senator Manchin). We have a right to tell him the truth. Something is wrong with you.”
“His unyielding attacks on the poor such as blocking living wages and refusing to support a bill that extends the tax credit that helps children or expand health care and ultimately carrying the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce rather than having compassion for the people of his state and the country – these are why West Virginia is our country’s Selma,” Barber said.