Nationwide civil rights chief joins Memphis struggle

Two days after a Memphis City Council vote that could determine the fate of a crude oil pipeline that would run through parts of South Memphis, more than 100 people joined a national civil rights leader to rally against the project.

Memphis Community Against the Pipeline gathered with supporters and civil rights activist, Rev. William Barber, in Alonzo Weaver Park in southwest Memphis on Sunday afternoon to fight the Byhalia Connection Pipeline.

Black Lives Matter flags and signs reading “No Oil in Our Soil” were held high in the crowd as participants chanted “Power to the People” and “Stop the Pipeline” using drums and other instruments.

Barber, co-chair of Campaign for the Poor, approached the group on a break from his trip to Jackson, Mississippi, to announce a Campaign for the Poor in 2021, a national initiative to fight poverty.

“Woe to those who regulate evil by law and rob the poor of their rights and prey on women and children,” said Barber, quoting a Bible verse.

The audience welcomes the words of Rev. Dr.  William J. Barber II during a rally against the Byhalia Connection pipeline in Memphis on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

“I’m coming over to say that someone here in Memphis is trying to rob us and we won’t have it,” said Barber.

The pipeline, a joint venture between Valero Energy and Plains All American Pipelines, a Texas-based pipeline operator, would run 49 miles from Memphis to Marshall County, Mississippi.

The pipeline would be laid four feet underground in the Boxtown community of South Memphis, where several industrial companies are currently operating and emitting pollutants.

Congress members reject:Pressley, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez under 28 in Congress urge Biden to stop the Byhalia pipeline

Legal action:To expedite approval of the Byhalia pipeline, the Memphis Groups are filing a lawsuit in federal court

“Pipeline companies and oil companies are lying,” said Barber. “The truth is that people here do not get sick because God has called them home, but because bad laws and statutes rob people of their lives.”

He told the audience that crude oil contains carcinogens and cancer-causing chemicals, and that a pound of it could contaminate 25 million gallons of water, and all of Memphis should be concerned if the council approves the pipeline.

One participant films Rev. Dr.  William J. Barber II at a rally against the Byhalia Connection pipeline in Memphis on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

Barber told participants in the rally and those watching online that they must continue to fight hard against the Byhalia pipeline.

He said that as well as fighting the pipeline, Memphians should keep an eye on organizations, politicians and leaders who have accepted money from pipeline and oil companies.

“Money does some funny, fun things to people,” Barber said.

“Any community organization, I don’t care what you are, and I don’t care how black you claim to be if you’ve taken money and claim to represent black people, but you’ve taken money from that collaboration, you must return it publicly. “

Barber also mentioned Wyatt Price, a monitoring land agent for the pipeline, who described the Memphis route as a “point of least resistance” when asked why the current area was selected.

“Well, you’ve woken us up now,” Barber said as the audience cheered him on.

An audience holds a handmade sign at a rally against the Byhalia Connection pipeline in Memphis on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

“This pipeline, America, runs through a predominantly black community and is a historic community,” Barber said. “This community is too historic and sacrificed to be robbed in the 21st century.”

Memphis Community Against the Pipeline is fighting to stop the project and its possible negative environmental impact on the South Memphis area and drinking water.

The pipeline would run on the Memphis Sand aquifer and contaminate the Memphis drinking water supply, say pipeline opponents.

Rallies against the pipeline:Al Gore calls proposed Byhalia Connection pipeline “ruthless, racist rip-off”

Shelby County Mayor:Amid the Byhalia pipeline debate, Lee Harris asked for a mandatory pipeline-household buffer

The Memphis People and Drinking Water rally took place two days before the third reading of a city council ordinance that would give city council members the power to approve or reject pipeline projects to sand the Memphis aquifer, the The city’s drinking water source, protect.

“What God made no one else has to write,” said Barber, referring to the Memphis Sand Aquifer.

Several other speakers at the rally, including Rev. Gordon Meyer and Linda Street, vice president of the Walker Homes-West Junction Neighborhood Association, urged Memphians to write to representatives and show opposition to the pipeline.

“Memphis bears all the risks,” said Barber. “And the pipeline will get all the benefits.”

Dima Amro can be reached at [email protected].

Comments are closed.