Memphis rallies and marches draw attention to Byhalia Pipeline opposition

A crowd member reacts to a speech during a rally against the Byhalia Pipeline featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber, who leads the Poor People’s Campaign. (© SteveJonesPhoto.com)

Prior to a Tuesday city council meeting, a Sunday rally featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign and a Monday march to City Hall from the Civil Rights Museum highlighted opposition to a proposed high-pressure crude oil pipeline that would go through majority-Black neighborhoods in Memphis and threaten the Memphis Sand aquifer that supplies the city with fresh drinking water.

The threat of a spill from a pipeline planned to cross directly over the source for Memphis’ drinking water is one of many reasons people opposed the proposed Byhalia Pipeline. (@SteveJonesPhoto.com)

On Tuesday, the city council pushed off a vote on an ordinance designed to protect the aquifer and promote environmental justice.

At Sunday’s rally, Barber spoke out against the Byhalia Pipeline, proposed by Valero Energy Corp. and Plains All American Pipeline L.P., which would connect the Valero Memphis Refinery and a Valero facility in Marshall County, Mississippi.

Justin Pearson, left, a co-founder of Memphis Community Against Pollution, responds to Rev. Dr. William Barber’s refrain against the Byhalia Pipeline project: “Not here. Not Now. Not Ever. Not on our watch.” (@SteveJonesPhoto.com)

“This pipeline, America, runs through a predominantly Black community and it's a historic community,” Barber said. “This community is too historic and has come through too much sacrifice to be robbed in the 21 century. … What God made nobody else has a right to contaminate.”

Throughout his speech, Barber reminded the crowd what their response to the pipeline will continue to be: “Not here. Not now. Not ever. Not on our watch.”

Actress Cybil Shepherd addresses the crowd gathered before their march to Memphis City Hall. (@SteveJonesPhoto.com)

Last month, former Vice President Al Gore headlined another rally against the pipeline, also hosted by Memphis Community Against the Pipeline. And last week members of the U.S. Congress along with more than 150 groups and individuals wrote to the White House, urging the Biden Administration to take action on one of the project’s federal permits.

On Monday, actress and Memphis native Cybill Shepherd spoke out against the pipeline in front of the Civil Rights Museum before joining a march to City Hall. And on Wednesday musician Justin Timberlake, another Memphis native, took to Instagram to announce his opposition to the pipeline threatening drinking water in his hometown.

Sunday’s event drew a diverse group of supporters challenging the pipeline project. (@SteveJonesPhoto.com)

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