The Coal Baron Blockade

This past Friday, dozens of protesters gathered to form a blockade in front of Grant Town Power Plant in West Virginia, a coal-burning plant that has close ties to Senator Joe Manchin’s son’s energy company. Called the Coal Baron Blockade and organized by the grassroots organization West Virginia Rising, the protest aimed to raise awareness of how continuing to burn coal is bad for everyday West Virginians and just how wrong it is that Manchin has such an outsized impact on national climate policy when he has direct ties to the fossil fuel industry.

This show of resistance against burning more coal in West Virginia feels especially poignant right now for a couple of reasons. For starters, the recent IPCC report underscored the absolute need to stop burning fossil fuels, full stop. For another, the Biden administration is trying to push through a very modified, slimmed-down version of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill (which would include new climate policies) and it’s been reported that what’s included in the final version “is really up to Joe [Manchin]. It’s basically going to be the Manchin reconciliation bill when all is said and done.” 

The protest is also notable for its cross-movement ties to the labor movement and the racial justice movement, listing as some of their core tenets: “We are against coal. We are not against coal workers. We believe in creating a new economy where fossil fuel workers can transition to new, dignified jobs,” and “Our struggle is interlinked with the struggle for racial justice. We see how fossil fuel combustion is causing asthma attacks and cancer clusters in Black communities, while decimating Indigenous lands. We also see how Joe Manchin cruelly blocks must-pass voting rights bills. We will not achieve climate justice until we achieve racial justice.”

For a good summary of the protest and the larger context, I’d highly recommend this article from Common Dreams. And for a tug on the heart strings, I’d recommend looking at this photo captured at the blockade. 

This past week has also seen large climate protests happening around the world: In the UK, the organization Extinction Rebellion organized a mass sit-down protest in London to call for an end to fossil fuels investments. Following the release of the IPCC report, hundreds of scientists across Spain, Germany, and the US organized protests and sit-ins against fossil fuels. 

Coming up, there is a Fight For Our Future Rally planned for April 23rd. Currently, there are events happening in DC, Georgia, and Arizona with the potential for more events around the nation. Learn more about it here

And if you’re from West Virginia and/or curious about climate action in West Virginia, check out this great collection of ways to get involved from the West Virginia Climate Alliance. 

Let’s keep up the momentum from these marches, protests, and sit-ins happening around the world!

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