Poor People's Campaign

May 30, 2020

Statement from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice. They also are co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

The graphic image of a white police officer crushing a black man beneath his knee, seemingly like a hunter posing over his prey, has outraged many across the nation and world who also feel the weight of racism bearing down on their necks.

The mentality that crushes a brother’s neck — as in the case of George Floyd in Minneapolis — or shoots a man jogging because of his skin color — as in the case of Ahmaud Arbery —  is the same mentality that sends black and brown and poor and low-income workers of all colors into the lethal path of the COVID-19 pandemic without needed protections, health care and economic resources.

It’s the same mentality that causes the U.S. president to quote racists from the past when he tweets that “when the looting starts the shooting starts.” It is a mentality that is rooted in the very founding of our country, which is built on subjugating the labor and lives of African Americans. 

Whether it is police abuse of power or policy abuse of power, these deaths serve as a collective knee on the necks of people of color.

The people’s demand for love, truth, justice and fundamental human rights is a cry that will not be comforted until change fully comes. This demand is rooted in the mental, social and political trauma caused by seeing violent deaths year after year at the hands of far too many police departments and judicial systems with no one held accountable.

Today one officer has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. While charging the officer may be a partial positive step, it is still a problematic step, as reports say that the officer kept kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for three minutes after he was unresponsive and the charges he got carry no intent to kill. The other three officers have still not been charged — when we know that if it were young men of color involved in a “street crime,” all present would be charged together.

The nation must listen to what’s being said in the street and understand the impact of living year after year with the feeling of being hunted and unheard if we are to ever recover from the pandemic of racism. The issue is not only who and what killed George Floyd and Ahmaud Abery and countless others but what makes those people believe that they have the power and the right to take another person’s life. 

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected] | 919-295-0802

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will 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 by implementing our Moral Agenda.