Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, held a press conference and protest in the front of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 14 to pressure Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to meet with and hear the concerns and demands from the West Virginian delegates and other members of the campaign.
The pair read from a letter citing the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, calling on Manchin to pledge full support for the Build Back Better plan and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“We write concerned, not just about your policy positions that are hurting the poor, but the soul and future of the democracy of the nation,” Theoharis read from the letter. “These positions are sinful. But you can change, and we want to help you change.”
Protesters, holding boxes filled with letters to Manchin, stood next to Barber as the pastor addressed the media. Barber said Manchin is committing “political violence” toward those experiencing poverty and who’ve financially struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He claims he’s Catholic, but none of his positions are in line with Catholic social teaching,” Barber said. “He’s out of line with a serious biblical critique … out of line with the Constitution. He’s not working to establish justice, provide for the common good, ensure equal protection under the law, and his positions are out of line with competent economic facts.”
Following his address, Capitol Hill police officers told Barber and other protesters that they couldn’t stand in front of the building as the loud volume of the speakers’ voices was causing a disturbance. Barber then led the protesters in a march on the front side of the building, before attempting to enter and meet with Manchin. Police told Barber that someone from Manchin’s staff needed to meet him at the entrance and escort him in if he wanted to enter. He then instructed protesters to leave signs and the letters addressed to Manchin at the front of the building.
Barber addressed the protesters and those present, telling them that the Poor People’s Campaign would commit to further escalate their protests toward Manchin, and that the campaign would focus on finding ways to meet with Manchin.
“We’re gonna be back!” Barber said.
Editor’s note: This story was corrected at 2:40 p.m. Eastern Time, Dec. 16, 2021, to clarify that the Poor People’s Campaign is seeking a meeting with Manchin, not with Manchin’s staff.