CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Hundreds of demonstrators outraged with Sen. Joe Manchin's opposition to a sweeping overhaul of U.S. election law marched through West Virginia's capital city on Monday evening.
Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, denounced the influential moderate Democratic senator and called for a diverse coalition of working people to apply pressure on Manchin, who recently opposed a $15 minimum wage and the price tag of President Joe Biden's initial $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
"West Virginia needs a real senator,” he thundered at a Charleston park in front of a festive crowd.
Then they marched a mile to Manchin's office. Unable to meet with the senator — an aide told Barber that he was in Washington — leaders of the demonstration affixed a poster-sized protest letter to the front doors of the office building. Rally-goers took turns signing their names on it.
When Manchin's aides offered comment cards to collect protestors' grievances, Barber waved them away: “We don't want to talk to the staff."
An email to Manchin's office about the protest was not immediately returned.
The protest was spurred by Manchin's decision to oppose a landmark reform of U.S. election law, a proposal known as For the People Act. Manchin said last week passing reform on a party-line vote risked further stoking partisan divides.
As a key senator in a divided chamber, Manchin has frustrated progressive Democrats with his reluctance to support several key agenda items.
Many people from neighboring states, including Kentucky and Maryland, drove and rode on buses to make it to the protest. They held signs and charged Manchin with enabling voter suppression.
He supports a narrower piece of legislation known as HR4 that updates the Voting Rights Act to reinstate a requirement that new voting laws and legislative districts in certain states be subject to federal approval.
Crucially, Manchin opposes eliminating the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster in the Senate, a step that would allow Democrats to pass top agenda items without Republican votes. That has turned the West Virginia Democrat into a kingmaker in the evenly divided chamber.
“With our senator pretty much controlling this thing, we want to be here to say we're not on the same page,” said Chuck Overstreet, a Charleston resident who joined the march.