Poor People’s Campaign leader Rev. William Barber II at MCAP Rally. “You’re taking 30 pieces of silver to betray your people.” Photo by Tony Jones, INK!

By Tony Jones

MEMPHIS, TN — Nationally respected activist minister Rev. Rev. Dr. William Barber II told supporters at the Memphis Community Against The Pipeline (MPAC) sequel rally Sunday, April 18th that black companies, churches and organizations that have accepted money from the proponents of the Byhalia Connection Pipeline are doing the same work as the biblical Judas and they need to publicly give the money back in support of MCAP’s fight and to do it publicly.

The sequel rally was planned to urge a citizen blockade to flood the City Council with support for an ordinance to be voted on Tuesday intended to protect the Memphis Sand Aquifer, and grow opposition for future efforts.

Head of the national Poor People’s Campaign, he stated, “Isiah 10 verses 1 to 3, says ‘Woe unto those that legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights and make women and children their prey.’ I’m here to say that in Memphis somebody’s trying to rob us and we’re not going to have it.”

Barber said he was fresh from a similar fight in fight in Virginia and North Carolina that stopped a pipeline there. The similarities are no accident he said. “They have the route planned to go through low-wealth, black, brown, indigenous and white communities. It will not go through wealthy

Community Activist Linda Street.
Photo by Tony Jones, INK!

communities, communities of oil executives. What they are doing is asking you to jeopardize the health of the health and well-being of the entire city of Memphis versus the profits of two oil companies,” he said, quoting from a news article. 

“It’s like Al Gore said when he was here. It’s racist, it’s risky and it’s a rip-off. The nation needs to know and the community needs to know that one pound of crude oil can contaminate 25 million gallons of ground water. That is why we must stop this pipeline. Plains All American alone has experienced 10 oil spills between June 2004 and Sept. 2007. It totaled 273,420 gallons of oil,” he said. “Valero has been responsible for 10 pipeline spills in 4 states, and in Canada, “one of the largest ground-based oil spills in the history of North America. So, when they put out cute commercials and say it’s going to be alright, pipeline companies and oil companies lie.”  

An internet report from Canada’s CBC News posted Dec. 30, 2015 stated that Valero capped a 7 cubic meter leak at the Jean-Gaulin refinery in 30 minutes. The site also stated, On Aug. 19, the company reported another leak.”

Reporting on an 800-gallon leak at Valero’s Marshall County storage site, where the Byhalia Connection Pipeline will connect, The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website notes, “In a study of 4,000 oil and fuel spills reported to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration since 2010, only about seven percent were discovered because of leak detection systems.”

The “Safety” tab yields this statement, “The Byhalia Connection team is committed to designing, constructing, operating and maintaining a safe and reliable pipeline. We will meet or exceed safety, design, construction and operating standards throughout the entire lifecycle of the Byhalia Connection Pipeline.”

Valero’s website lists nearly 24 local recipients of community grant money, including the NAACP, which has reportedly received $25,000. Former County Commissioner Diedre Malone is prominently featured, due to her co-owned firm the Carter-Malone Group being hired to conduct community meetings for the pipeline. 

Uplift Westwood CDC is listed also. Presenting Westwood’s attributes, the site also gives a complete listing of the meetings held to discuss the pipeline.    

Linda Street has been a community activist in the area for decades. She told the crowd that this is the time for unity. “Thirty-four percent of our population is elderly. We must fight to make sure we keep the oil out of our community. Not just today. We need you to be out on the front lines.”