Poor People’s Campaign relaunched in the USA

The 'mule train', part of the original Poor People's Campaign, marching through Washington on June 25 1968

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Poor People’s Campaign relaunched 50 years on

A SUCCESSOR to Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign [was launched on 13 May 2018] at rallies across the United States tomorrow, including planned civil disobedience in Washington DC.

The new campaign, founded by the Rev William Barber, aims to create a “mass movement to bring the problems of poverty to the nation’s conscience.”

Organisers pledged to bring the campaign’s causes “not just to Congress but to state capitals”, with events organised in more than 30 towns and cities across the country.

“We will protest at more than 30 statehouses and the US Capitol demanding a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting rights laws, new programmes to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

“We will hold teach-ins to learn more about these issues and how we can organise to transform our nation’s political, economic and moral structures”, the organisers said.

Dr King launched the original Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 to fight for economic justice for the US poor. It demanded human rights for citizens of all backgrounds and culminated with a march on Washington which led to around 3,000 people setting up a six-week protest camp in the National Mall.

Fifty years on, campaigners say that inequality is worse than it was in the 1960s, with 1 per cent of households owning 40 per cent of the country’s wealth and the median wealth of white households 10 times higher than that of black ones.

The campaign will bring together clergy, trade unionists and justice campaigns in 30 states, focused on Dr King’s call for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

Washington organisers say the campaign has the support of the Service Employees International Union and the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

With a focus on 12 core principles, including a commitment to non-violence, it calls for the development of leadership among those suffering the most from poverty, with “equal protection under the law non-negotiable.”

Campaigners said: “The centrality of systemic racism must be named, detailed and exposed. Poverty and economic equality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.”

Organisers are planning to offer workshops, teach-ins and training in peaceful civil disobedience ahead of a major national rally due to be held in Washington on June 23.

PEOPLE rejected in the past — African-Americans, Latinos, poor whites, women and workers — “are the cornerstones who can rebuild America,” the Reverend William Barber declared in his latest sermon in Washington DC about the New Poor People’s Campaign: here.

8 thoughts on “Poor People’s Campaign relaunched in the USA

  1. On May 29, 1968, black, Hispanic and Native American participants in the Poor People’s Campaign marched on the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., to protest a high court ruling that affirmed limits on Indian fishing rights in several rivers of Washington state.

    The mainly Native American demonstrators were led by Ralph David Abernathy, the principal leader of the Poor People’s Campaign following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and Reies Tijerina, a leader of the Chicano movement in the state of New Mexico. When they arrived at the Supreme Court building, across the street from the U.S. Capitol, and found the doors locked, protesters began banging on the windows, breaking some. Police moved in and made dozens of arrests.

    King, Abernathy and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began to organize a new movement called the Poor People’s Campaign in early 1968, seeking to address broader issues of economic inequality and poverty for all races, after the passage of the civil rights acts. It was King’s shift to the left, both in coming out openly against the war in Vietnam and moving towards efforts to organize an interracial, working class movement over economic injustice, that accelerated ultra-right and government plotting of his assassination.

    The SCLC had organized a demonstration in Washington that modeled itself of the Bonus Army campaign of 1932 where World War I veterans camped out demanding cash payment for their service certificates. The intent of the Poor People’s Campaign was to bring as many poor people as possible to the US capital to make American poverty visible. King proposed, “we ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, “We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way…and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.” On May 21 thousands of poor people from across the United States erected a shanty town on the National Mall called “Resurrection City.”

    The Poor People’s Campaign called for an Economic Bill of Rights with Five Planks:

    A meaningful job at a living wage
    A secure and adequate income for all those unable to find or do a job
    Access to land for economic uses
    Access to capital for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
    Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government

    Even in the heyday of the post-World War II economic boom, American capitalism was both unable and unwilling to meet these modest and reasonable demands.



  2. UNITED STATES: A UN expert has condemned the US for “punishing and imprisoning the poor,” whose lives are “shorter and sicker compared to those living in all other rich democracies.”

    Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said US policies towards its own citizens since the 1960s had been “neglectful at best.”

    Mr Alston is due to present a report on US poverty to the UN human rights council this month, having visited a slum in Los Angeles, rural Alabama and the US colony of Puerto Rico.



  3. UNITED STATES: Poor People’s Campaign leader the Rev William Barber was arrested in Washington DC on Monday as he led hundreds of protesters demanding improved conditions for the nation’s poor.

    Organisers say about 2,000 people have been arrested in the past five weeks as they use “direct action” to push the plight of the country’s poor to the top of the political agenda.

    The campaign was relaunched earlier this year, following in the footsteps of the original campaign’s leader Dr Martin Luther King.



  4. On June 24, 1968, after six weeks of protest, Resurrection City, the encampment created by the Poor People’s Campaign on the mall in Washington DC, was forcibly shut down by police. More than one thousand police were mobilized for the action, ordered by the Democratic Party administration of President Lyndon Johnson.

    Resurrection City was no small project. With a population high of about 3,000 residents, the city offered its citizens many amenities including day care, a barbershop, mess hall, and a city hall. Architect John Wiebenson designed the city’s shanty buildings to be sturdy but simple so the many unskilled volunteers could quickly make homes for thousands.

    The city sat on the iconic lawn of the Washington mall where it served as a “counter capital.” When Martin Luther King, Jr. conceived of the project, he envisioned Resurrection City as headquarters from which the Poor People’s Campaign could lobby Congress to pass an Economic Bill of Rights. After King’s assassination on April 4 the movement was delayed, but eventually carried out under the leadership of Reverend Ralph David Abernathy.

    Some senators and congressmen visited the camp in a gesture of sympathy, largely for show. Even Vice President Hubert Humphrey remarked that the Poor People’s campaign was, “going to produce results” and that “I think we can learn a lot here.” But President Johnson was hostile, as was the bulk of Congress. One Democratic senator from Arkansas, John McClellan, went as far as to say the city was “a premeditated act of contempt for and rebellion against the sovereignty of government.”

    The largest event in the campaign around Resurrection City came on June 19, when 150,000 people gathered to rally in support of Poor People’s Campaign and hear speeches from the movement’s leaders. But the population of the city fell to about 500 as the June 24 expiration date for the protest’s permit approached. Abernathy, however, remained committed to the project and said Resurrection City would remain regardless of a permit.

    When June 24 arrived, the local authorities in the District of Columbia deployed 1,000 police to tear down Resurrection City. Using tear gas and wearing masks and body armor, police arrested 288 people, including Abernathy. Later that night, the mayor declared a curfew and deployed the National Guard to enforce martial law.

    The Poor People’s Campaign was an attempt to connect the struggles of the most distressed sections of the working class across racial lines and to mount a peaceful and democratic protest against poverty and inequality. The response from the US government was tear gas and jail cells.



  5. Pingback: Hurricane Florence in the USA update | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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