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Al Gore and Rev. William Barber Lead Rally in Buckingham Against ACP

Among the many flashpoints in the fight over Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed compressor station in Union Hill, a predominantly black community in Buckingham County founded by freed slaves. On Tuesday evening, at the invitation of a coalition of environmental groups, the Reverend William Barber II and former Vice President Al Gore led a rally to protest the compressor station, which recently was granted a permit by state regulators.  WMRA’s Andrew Jenner reports.


The evening’s program at Buckingham County Middle School, attended by about 1,000 people, began with old songs tied to old struggles familiar to the residents of Union Hill.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: I thought the ancestors needed to hear us sing to them one of the songs they sung when they were up against something bigger than a company.

Rev. William Barber II is a minister and activist who leads the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.

BARBER: They were up against a whole country that had decided that they were 3/5 of a person. If they walked then for justice and won, we black and white and brown and red and yellow can walk now for justice and win.

Then came the righteous, no-punches-pulled anger.

BARBER: As a preacher tonight, I want you to know that Dominion is practicing sin, and anybody that’s joined up with them is practicing sin.

Environmental racism was a recurrent theme, befitting the event’s title: The Moral Call for Ecological Justice in Buckingham.

BARBER: There is a reason why they run the pipeline and the compressor stations and they never go through affluent communities. But if they thought they were going to get away with it in Union Hill, they are out of luck. This is holy ground. This is where the slaves were buried who believed in freedom.

The program included remarks from many others, included affected landowners, a scientist, a lawyer and Union Hill residents. Richard Walker is a fifth-generation descendant of a freed slave who bought a farm in Union Hill. Growing up, he spent summers in the community, where he still has many relatives.

RICHARD WALKER: They live within a quarter of a mile from this proposed compressor station. Somebody is trying to hurt my family, and I’m not going to allow it. I am ever so grateful for all these folk that have came to the defense of Union Hill to stop Dominion.

Next, it was former Vice President Al Gore’s turn to get mad.

AL GORE: And I have understood most of my life that corporations were the most important economic units in our country, but I don’t like the fact that they believe that they are the most important political actors in our country. We the people of the United States of America have to reclaim our own destiny and make the decisions about what our lives are gonna be like. What our environment’s going to be like. Whether our air’s gonna be clean. Whether our water is fit to drink. Whether our land is gonna be free from poison. Whether our children are gonna be able to have a fine and decent and clean and safe future.

And then, as Barber and Gore left the gymnasium, more singing.

Andrew Jenner is a freelance reporter based in Harrisonburg. After working as a journalist in the Shenandoah Valley for a decade, he spent three years living and reporting in Brazil, returning to Harrisonburg in the summer of 2018. Andrew has reported for TheAtlantic.com, The Washington Post, Deutsche Welle, Discover, Modern Farmer, and many others. He is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, has a MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College, and almost made it onto Jeopardy! a few years ago.