Thousands of clergy and low-wage workers attended a rally Monday in Washington, D.C., and hundreds were arrested as the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival demanded immediate action by the US Senate to end the filibuster, pass voting rights, raise the minimum wage and protect immigrants.
The movement is also demanding the White House make good on its commitment to meet with poor people and low-wage workers.
Among the largest day of arrests in Washington during a nonviolent direct action focused on voting rights and economic justice, the National Moral Monday began at Union Station, and participants then marched past the Capitol building and the U.S. Supreme Court. When they were denied entry to the Hart Senate Office Building, they refused to leave the entrance area on the street. They have asked, in writing, to meet with Sens. Manchin, Sinema and McConnell.
Bishop William J. Barber II, DMin, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, reminded the clergy and workers that the campaign has demanded a meeting with President Biden that includes a diverse group of clergy, workers, economists and civil rights lawyers.
Instead, White House staffers have said the campaign must wait until after the infrastructure bill passes.
“We’re asking the White House why are they waiting?” Rev. Barber said. “The president said that ending poverty would be a theory of change. He said it to our gathering in September tied to the election. And we met with the economic policy team. ”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights icon and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Biden should have been at the march on Monday.
“If we lose, they lose,” Jackson said. “If we lose, democracy loses. “If we lose, the nation loses credibility in the world.”
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is demanding that Congress approve the following actions by Aug. 6, the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act:
- Restoration of the full Voting Rights Act
- Passage of the For the People’s Act
- An end to the filibuster
- An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour
- Fair and respectful treatment of the nation’s 11 million immigrants
“The vote gave Americans of all backgrounds the opportunity to address the inequities of our country,” she said. “Those seeking to limit access to that vote will strangle liberty and justice for all…I cannot speak for our father now, as I dared not in his lifetime. But I know for sure that he would want us to be with you in the fight for social justice and voting rights. In 1965 when Lyndon Johnson pled for Voting Rights Reform he invoked the mighty anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. These words still ring in our hearts. We Shall Overcome. We Must Overcome!”
Tembi Hove, a banquet server at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta and a UNITE HERE! member, said: “The right to vote is directly rooted in our fight for racial justice. As a Black woman and union member I know the struggle to demand dignity and respect for myself and my community.” Hove said she canvassed to get out the vote during the U.S. Senate election in Georgia, even though she was laid off because of COVID-19 effects on the economy. “I won’t allow my rights to get stripped away. This is our moment to unite against unjust laws that are putting a direct threat on our lives and livelihoods,” she said.
Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches — which represents 38 member communions and over 40 million individuals –100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American, and Living Peace traditions — said the demands are popular with the people. “It is the powers that be that are resisting democracy and people’s empowerment and justice,” he said. “If they cannot stand with us we will find new leaders who will work for us and with us for a moral revival, a revitalized democracy and justice.”
Dr. Wendsler Nosie, the former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe who is leading the fight to protect the sacred lands of Oak Flat from takeover by a foreign copper mining company, led the group in a prayer of protection and blessing of those participating in direct action with ashes from the sacred fire.