Poor People's Campaign

September 1, 2020

A single mother of three from Kentucky who faces possible eviction told thousands of people who gathered online for a Poor People’s Campaign national Moral March on McConnell that they must demand that the Senate majority leader act so that millions of people aren’t forced out of their homes. 

Larree Coomer of Lexington, Kentucky, who held three jobs before COVID-19 and is now unemployed, spoke Monday at the fifth national Moral Monday March on McConnell. The actions have attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers and resulted in thousands of people shutting down McConnell’s phone lines at offices in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky. 

They are demanding a fair COVID-19 stimulus bill that forgives rent and mortgages; prohibits shutoffs of water and power; extends unemployment benefits and expands health care, among other changes that would lift up the 140 million Americans who were poor and low-income — 43% of the country — even before the pandemic.  

“Think of me, think of all the single mothers who are out there just trying to make it,” Coomer said as she asked people to call McConnell’s offices. “This is strictly about the three little babies who depend on me. … there are thousands of me. There are people who don’t even have the resources that I have.”

With a $700 electric bill hanging from her refrigerator, Coomer faces the possibility of eviction even as she tries to track down two missing unemployment checks and feed her three children. 

McConnell needs to act, she said, “before we have these babies out here in these streets,” she said. 

Other speakers included Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, along with actor and activist Mark Ruffalo. 

Also speaking were Tayna Fogle, a Poor People’s Campaign activist in Kentucky; Ginny Ramsey, director of the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, Kentucky; Art Crosby, the executive director of Lexington Fair Housing Council; Kenia Alcocer, a co-chair of the California Poor People’s Campaign; Sierra Ramirez of the DC Tenants Union; Paul Johnson of the Massachusetts Homeless Union; and Crystal Sanchez, president of the Sacramento Homeless Union. 

The Aspen Institute estimated in early August that 30 million to 40 million renters in the U.S. could be evicted because they have lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

Alcocer said she’s expected to pay $1200 in back rent by Tuesday and then set up a payment plan for the rest of what she owes and her rent going forward. 

“During this pandemic, we want to put our necessities first: food, not rent. Medicine, not rent. Our ability to survive, not rent,” Alcocer said. ‘’

Paying rent “means not putting a gallon of milk on our table for our children,” she said “Paying our rent means for people like myself, who are diabetic, not being able to afford our insulin.”

For five weeks, the Poor People’s Campaign has focused on McConnell’s meanness, misery and mayhem, demanding that he allow a Senate vote on a fair stimulus bill that helps all people and not corporations. 

“You cannot criticize Trump without criticizing McConnell,” said Rev. Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, based in Goldsboro, North Carolina.  “You cannot talk about what Trump has done without talking about what McConnell has done.”

Ruffalo said he doesn’t think Americans understand the “wall of suffering” that the country faces as millions of people could be forced to live on the streets. 

“Now we’re looking at the greatest, most devastating public health crisis in the history of our country, which has led to the biggest economic crisis in the history of our country,” he said. “And with our leadership, we have one man, Mitch McConnell, who jokingly calls himself the grim reaper as a rejoinder to his abject irresponsible way of dealing with the problems that the country has by just refusing to even talk about the issues that are happening today.”

People like McConnell “don’t like to be exposed,” Rev. Barber said. “They like to hide under the ugliness of other people. And today, we’re focusing on what McConnel has done in being so regressive in public policy and sometimes so just an obstruction that he is No. 1 when it comes to why so many people are facing eviction.”

Rev. Theoharis, who has been homeless in her life, said the country has the resources to end homelessness. 

Instead, McConnell uses his power to bully, said Rev. Theoharis, director of Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice in New York City. 

“The Senate could suspend rent payments and evictions,”  Rev. Theoharis said. “It could extend unemployment benefits and raise wages. It could expand health care and build a jobless program that builds new housing and infrastructure. But instead, Mitch McConnell and the Senate see people only for what you can get out of them.” 

Crosby and Ramsey addressed evictions in Lexington, Kentucky, which are ongoing despite assurances from politicians and judges that a moratorium was in place. 

Eviction court began on Aug. 24, Crosby said, with 53 people scheduled in a one-hour hearing. “People had less than one minute a piece to say why they should stay in their homes,” he said. 

Ramsey said the government “could be responding to the people who are losing their homes. We are talking about our brothers and sisters — a 72-year-old woman whose husband is dying of COVID, a mother with seven children who has never had to ask for help is about to be on the street.”

Johnson said the country can expect “a tidal wave of homelessness as these eviction moratoriums come off and the general economy goes. There’s going to be no recovery for some time.”

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral  Revival, is building a broad and deep moral fusion movement rooted in the leadership of poor people to unite our country from the bottom up. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Our updated agenda, A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: the Poor People’s Jubilee Platform, addresses these issues.