Poor People's Campaign

January 9, 2021

The Poor People’s Campaign witnessed with heavy hearts the events of January 6th, when a mob emboldened by hate, lies, and racism laid siege to the US Capitol and other state capitols across the country in an attempt to subvert our democracy. This attack was carried out at the behest of a narcissistic President and his enablers, who have followed a divisive political strategy that is as old as the deconstructionists of the 1870s and the Southern strategy of the 1960s. We know that the only antidote to this poison in our body politic is a moral fusion coalition committed to reconstructing democracy.

Our intersectional movement has been met with arrest while engaged in non-violent protest — praying, singing and peacefully marching. The people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th were not protesting but attempting to overthrow democratic government by mob rule. The fact that these violent rioters were able to break into the Capitol should alarm us all and cause us to question the deference they were given by law enforcement and security forces. This is eerily reminiscent of how law enforcement has often been used to protect violent and racist actors defending the status quo while suppressing non-violent social justice movements.

As a state-based national movement that has nonviolently protested at state capitols and the US Capitol, calling out policy violence and pushing for a just moral agenda for and with poor and low-income people, moral leaders, activists and organizers across race, geography, issue area and other lines of division, we must point out that:

  1. This did not just happen. For years extremist politicians who call themselves Republicans have sown the winds of division and lies; now the country is reaping the whirlwind of chaos. We call on our lawmakers and justice system to hold President Trump, senators, Congress persons, and all elected and appointed officials who had a role in these heinous attacks accountable for their actions, swiftly and to the full extent of the law.
  1. These politicians found time and resources to plan, support, and continue an attack on democracy (even after it turned deadly) but have not found time and resources to expand health care, enact a just stimulus, raise wages, or protect the people they are called to serve. 
  1. They push the people into a rage rooted in racism but have refused to push efforts to address systemic racism.
  1. They are responsible for the five deaths that occurred in the attack, but their policy inaction is also in large part responsible for the inept response to Covid that has caused nearly 400,000 deaths.
  1. They have spent more time lying to the people than lifting the people, especially the least of these of this nation.

Such violence always erupts when there is the greatest possibility for change. Throughout history, Native and Indigenous people have seen this kind of mob violence. Black people have seen it. Women have seen it. Asians have seen it. Latino farm workers have seen it. Workers standing for labor rights have seen it. What we saw this week is not the dream of America, but it has too often been the practice of America.

This violence is a reaction to record turnout of people of every race, income, region, sexuality, creed and conviction who voted for candidates that pledged to expand health care, raise wages, address systemic racism and poverty, in the general election and the Georgia run-off. It took place as we witnessed cracks in the Southern strategy, which has kept people divided by race for decades. This was an assault rooted in a refusal to believe the legitimacy of an election where people of color and poor and low wealth people united to vote out an extremist President and Senate majority.

Lastly, we must not confuse a failed attempt to subvert democracy with popular uprisings to reclaim government for the people. This riot exposes the MAGA movement as a fake populism that serves elites. It is a mistake to scapegoat poor people, especially poor white people for what happened on January 6. Press reports of the rioters included business owners, executives, and multi-millionaires.

At a time when something new is breaking through the hate, we cannot let this stop the growth of a moral fusion movement. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is committed to continuing to build a fusion movement that brings the 140 million poor and low-income people of this country together across race and other historic divisions. This is what will protect our democracy and democratic institutions and build a stronger nation.

Forward together, not one step back!

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, Repairers of the Breach
Co-Chair, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Director, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
Co-Chair, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival