Chanting “can you hear us” to the offices of Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, impacted people and faith leaders with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival marched in Washington, D.C., on Monday, demanding that Congress pass infrastructure for the people.
Led by the campaign co-chairs, Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the activists representing the 140 million and poor and low-income people in this country gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court for a rally to support Build Back Better, marched to the U.S. Capitol and then to the Hart Senate Building.
There, 16 people were taken into custody when they refused to leave an area outside the Hart Building. Among those arrested was Stewart Acuff, a retired union organizer from Jefferson County, West Virginia.
“I’m sick of our Democratic senator who could with his vote for Build Back Better lift so many poor families out of poverty.” Acuff said in prepared remarks. “Our essential workers providing home care are desperate for wage increases. They keep our aged and disabled out of nursing homes. Poverty, hopelessness and heroin are overwhelming too many of our communities.
It is an abomination that Sen. Manchin stuffs his pockets from fossil fuel polluters instead of helping our state and our people.”
Bishop Barber questioned what it means that Congress hasn’t passed Build Back Better, with all the help it provides for the people, yet.
“The question is: Is America even in the midst of a pandemic going to continue to give and give and give to the billionaires or are we going to lift up the poor and low-wage Americans from the bottom? Are we doing to ensure living wages for workers or are we going to ensure more wealth for the greedy?” he asked. “Are we going to ensure education for our children or are we going to insulate billionaires from tax cuts?Are we going to provide paid sick leave and pay home health workers properly or are we going to push policies that will create more money for fewer people and say to hell with the rest of the nation? Are politicians going to vote to uplift the whole society and vote to guarantee full access to the ballot or are we going to hide behind a coward’s filibuster that even Strom Thurmond wouldn’t use and allow voter suppression to go unchecked? Are we going to fight for the soul of the nation and democracy or are we going to let the love of money, which is the root of all evil, rather than a love for the people be our guiding principle?”
The PPC:NCMR gathered Monday to remind “the people who have been elected – the senators, the congresspeople, the president, the vice president — that we, the 140 million poor and low income people in this, the richest country in the world — may not run this country but we make this country run,” Rev. Theoharis said.
“And we voted into office folks who said they would pass living wages, expand and protect our voting rights, and invest in the people — lifting from the bottom so that everybody can rise. So we’re here today to say we need a full Build Back Better plan as a first step,” she said. “We are today to say we need to expand and protect voting rights. We are here today to say we need to protect all of our immigrant brothers and sisters. We need to save Oak Flat and all land that is under attack from rich corporations. “
Also arrested was Rev. Paul Dunn, minister of First Baptist Church in Charleston, West Virginia, who previously endorsed Sen. Manchin for his stance on voting rights.
Rev. Dunn made a commercial for Sen. Manchin, concluding that he’s the type of leadership that West Virginia needs. But then he heard Sen. Manchin say that helping West Virginians would give them an entitlement mentality in the same people who have been kicked to the curb, left out and overlooked.
“I need you to think about them, Joe, when you think about the Build Back Better plan, voting rights and ending the filibuster,” Rev. Dunn said. “That’s the type of leadership that West Virginia needs.”
Rev. Dr. Alvin Jackson, executive director of the 2022 Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington
“Ultimately, the mark of a great nation is a compassionate nation. And we’re going to keep coming back until this nation does right by all of its people. And we will be back on June 18, 2022. Not just for a day, but a declaration of an ongoing moral movement to shift the narrative … and build from the bottom up. We are here today and we are going to keep coming back until the nation does right by everybody.”
Kat Northrup from Montana:
“Our nation, our community deserves better. We the people, upon whose backs this nation is built, and run on, deserve better from the nation we carry. We need more than “affordable housing,” we need attainable homes for ourselves, for our families, to grow and thrive. We need healthcare that actually helps us maintain and heal our bodies and hearts. We need childcare; safe places to send our kids, so that we can return to the workforce, or school.”
Rev. Dr. Jodi Cohen Hayashida, tri-chair, Maine PPC:
“We are standing here, in support of the BBB because we refuse to turn away any longer.
The agenda isn’t perfect. We can’t overturn centuries of oppression and systemic injustice with one plan, even if it has three parts. But this agenda is a first step, the moment when we as a nation say we refuse to turn away from each other any longer. We refuse to turn away from the 4 million people who will be able to access critical medical care if we close the Medicaid gap. We refuse to turn away from the tens of millions of families who will be able to better care for their children if we maintain the Child Tax credit.”
Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church:
“Congress must now move quickly to pass the Build Back Better Act, which offers a historic opportunity to create millions of jobs and advance a more equitable society. Millions of our neighbors lead more stressful and significantly shorter lives in a society that has for decades failed to invest not just in physical infrastructure, but also in a civic infrastructure such as a more fair and equitable economy and a sustainable environment “
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder & CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action
“The infrastructure bill President Biden is signing into law today is not enough! It is a first step, but we need the full Build Back Better agenda.We must transform our country so that all can thrive – regardless of skin color, zip code or income – with good jobs, education, and healthcare, and bold investments in clean energy, transportation, and environmental justice so that we can reach 100% clean, pollution free energy by 2035.”
Ed Brown, Sunrise Movement:
“I thought about everything I am being blocked from so I booked a ticket to DC last month to join the hunger strikers to ensure that Pres. Biden made good on his promises – to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.”
John Wessel-McCoy of Phoenix, Arizona PPC:
“I’m part of the 140 million poor and low-income people struggling to live our lives with dignity. We are the growing number of those who are abandoned in the midst of abundance. I come here as a father of three amazing children who are facing a very uncertain future. I’m here to do the work of uniting the poor and dispossessed across the lines that divide us.”
Jean Evansmore, co-chair, West Virginia PPC:
“I want to thank Rev. Dunn from West Virginia for coming here and giving us the truth. He knows what happened – he has apologized. West Virginia, Rev. Dunn has apologized to you. He knows Manchin was lying. Believe that!”