Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]
Poor and low-wage workers from 33 states took to the streets of DC on Monday to demand that Congress pass a Build Back Better plan that lifts from the bottom and voting rights protections to confront the tide of voter suppression laws sweeping the nation.
The Moral Monday rally and direct action by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and dozens of partners began at Capitol Square, where impacted leaders from the 33 states spoke. Hundreds more joined in the crowd, which then marched to Pennsylvania Avenue, taking over an intersection until police began arresting people who demanded that Congress “get it done in 2021.”
Joan Javier Duval from Vermont captured what so many others also expressed when she said of the 140 million poor and low-income people in the country: “We are sick and tired of the death by neglect. We are sick and tired of the lack of leadership.”
Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the PPC:NCMR, pointed out that the Declaration of Independence calls for the people to throw off a government that imposes a long train of abuses.
“So we have come here today to say clearly that blocking voting rights and voter protections when billionaires are financing a movement to suppress the vote and subvert the next election is a form of abuse,” Bishop Barber said. “Stopping $15 and a union for working people who are struggling to survive is a form of abuse. Not addressing poverty when you know it kills 250,000 people every year is a form of abuse. Blocking a child tax credit that will help 39 million families—61 million children—is a form of abuse. Blocking pay for 18 million workers who come into our homes and care for our loved ones is a form of abuse.”
During the rally, Bishop Barber also shared a letter from economist Jeffrey Sachs, who emphasized that arguments against Build Back Better that reference inflation are lies.
“[Sachs] is saying that the inflation we have is a result of COVID, the result of economic impacts we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” Bishop Barber said.
The day started in West Virginia, where the state Poor People’s Campaign held a rally outside the office of Sen. Joe Manchin in Martinsburg and then led a motorcade to Washington D.C., with cars and trucks asking the question, “Which side are you on?”
“I am really, really tired of watching all these wealthy people and corporations ask for a handout, and there’s never any problem to give it to them. But when supporters need it for hard-working class people, then he asks how will we ever pay for it?” said Sharon Helman. “When his own constituents ask for a living wage or help with child care expenses, he has the gall to say he doesn’t want them to feel entitled.”
Frank Thomas of Arizona, whose senator, Kyrsten Sinema, is also blocking progress on Build Back Better, said that the people want Congress to pass voting rights protections “and affirm what the 14th amendment promised us — the right for everyone to vote. We need to remind them of the Declaration of Independence, that the government derives its power from the ‘consent of the governed.’”
At the DC rally, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, PPC:NCMR co-chair, reminded the crowd and people watching online that “we cannot be silent when there is the biggest attack on democracy in our lifetimes, not when 140 milion people live in poverty, or one healthcare crisis, one job loss away from being poor. We are here to make our voices loud and clear. And today, on Ella Baker’s birthday, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
Rev. Amiri B. Hooker of South Carolina came to DC to represent his congregation and his community who suffered from poverty and death. “I am tired of the politicians playing poverty monopoly with our people! It’s a damn shame to allow folks to work every day and still go hungry,” he said.
Pamela Poniatowski from Rhode Island explained how she became disabled three years ago and “now I can’t work and am staying at friends’ houses. I am one of those people who is $400 away from a disaster.”
Savina Martin, a veteran from Massachusetts is tired of seeing homeless veterans. “Stop the war on the poor! We shouldn’t have to come home from war and live in the streets, the subways or the grates,” she said.
Tanisha Logan-Lattimore, a mother of eight, brought all her children in the family vehicle and drove down from New York because she decided, “that I must be a part of the change instead of hoping someone else will do it.”
Vivian Marie Henry made the journey from Minnesota because she deserves healthcare. She asked the crowd to “keep on fighting, this is good versus evil and evil can’t win.”
Partners for the Moral Monday include SEIU/Fight for $15, Black Voters Matter, Common Defense, Presbyterian Church (USA), Unitarian Universalist Association, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, American Friends Service Committee, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, Hindus for Human Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, Pax Christi USA, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, United for Peace & Justice, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, Indivisible, Order of Lutheran Franciscans, Dayenu, Institute for Policy Studies, Forward Justice Action Fund, Sunrise Movement, League of Women Voters, DC Vote, Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Deaconess Community ELCA, Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color, the Global Women’s Strike, Be a Hero, Avodah, Communication Workers of America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Faith in Public Life.