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Poor People's Campaign Kicks Off in Washington, D.C.

The Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign, kick off six weeks of nonviolent direct action in Washington, D.C. (Michael Nigro)

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Thousands of activists and civil rights advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., Monday for the Poor People’s Campaign, an effort to relaunch Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight against poverty, war and income inequality. Monday’s event was the first of 40 days of action planned across the nation. The campaign’s goals include federal and state living-wage laws, an end to anti-union and anti-workers’ rights efforts, welfare programs for the poor, equity in education, Medicaid expansion and accessible housing.

Truthdig correspondents Michael Nigro and Clara Romeo are reporting from Washington, D.C. Scroll down to see Truthdig’s live multimedia updates.

9 P.M. EDT: The Associated Press reports that more than 200 people had been arrested or cited during the first day of the campaign, including its two leaders.

“We’re living in an impoverished democracy,” the Rev. William Barber II said. “People across the country are standing up against the lie of scarcity. We know that in the richest country in the world, there is no reason for children to go hungry, for the sick to be denied health care and for citizens to have their votes suppressed. Both parties have to be challenged — one for what it does and one for what it doesn’t do.”

4:50 P.M. EDT: The Poor People’s Campaign Twitter page reports that hundreds of arrests have been made. The campaign has launched a legal defense fund “to ensure the rights of those on the front lines in the fight to reclaim our nation’s soul are protected.”

4:45 P.M. EDT: Arrestees sing, “ONE JAIL IS NOT ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US!”

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

4:40 P.M. EDT: Clara Romeo spoke with a police officer at the scene who said that those arrested would likely have to pay a $50 fine, and that there would probably not be further repercussions.

The Rev. William Barber II is reportedly among those arrested.

4:30 P.M. EDT: Clara Romeo and Michael Nigro report that the crowd is dwindling as civil arrests are made. Some protesters are being escorted away from the street. Those arrested are given wristbands and taken to a different area.

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

4:20 P.M. EDT: Police remain in a line of confrontation, according to the Poor People’s Campaign’s Twitter page:

4:09 P.M. EDT: Michael Nigro and Clara Romeo are live at the front of the march.

The Rev. William Barber II is at the front of the protest, right at the police line:

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

 

4 P.M. EDT: Clara Romeo reports that police have blocked part of the protest, forming a line outside the Library of Congress:

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

3:45 P.M. EDT: Marchers have taken to the streets.

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

3:20 P.M. EDT: Carmen Perez, one of the organizers for the Women’s March, takes the podium. “It’s not OK for people in our country to die without health care on our watch,” she says. “It’s not OK to separate mothers and their children on the border. It’s not OK, sisters and brothers, that every day a young black man or woman is killed at the hands of law enforcement in these United States of America.”

3 P.M. EDT: The Rev. Liz Theoharis tells the crowd, “When people step forward, other’s listen.”

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

2:30 P.M. EDT: The Rev. William Barber II takes to the podium again. “We are here because when you look at the grand moral declarations of our Constitution, which say that every piece of policy … should assure domestic tranquility, should establish justice, should provide for the common defense, and should promote the general welfare—we know when we look at those principles, something’s wrong in America.”

2:30 P.M. EDT: The Rev. Liz Theoharis has taken the podium. “We are here to make our voices heard,” she says. “To tell this nation that there are 140 million poor people living in it. We, today, in 2018, have fewer voting rights than we did 50 years ago. There are 11 million people living under the threat of detention and deportation. We have deep ecological devastation with 4 million households having poison lead coming out of the water in their pipes. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. There comes a time when we cannot take it anymore. There comes a time when we must march, and we must speak out, and we must protest and organize. … America, you’re headed in the wrong direction!”

2:15 P.M. EDT: A crowd gathers around the Rev. William Barber II as the rally begins.

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

1:55 P.M. EDT: Truthdig correspondent Michael Nigro is streaming live as activists prepare for the 2 p.m. event.

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

1 P.M. EDT: Clara Romeo reports that Poor People’s Campaign delegates have been sent from states across the nation.

Romeo also reports that labor unions have a strong presence at the rally.

Photo credit: Clara Romeo

Sunday evening: The Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, kick off six weeks of nonviolent direct action in Washington, D.C.

Photo credit: Michael Nigro

“We know this is not and cannot be the America we settle for,” Barber, a pastor from North Carolina, said Sunday evening at a meeting at the National City Christian Church in downtown Washington, D.C.

Draped around Barber’s neck was a clerical stole that read “Jesus was a poor man.”

The Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, kicked off the event Sunday night. (Michael Nigro)

“We have to cry loud,” Barber said. “We can’t shut up. We won’t shut up. We have to build a stage for poor people to demand attention. … We have to put our bodies on the line and put our mouths to work and we have to cry loud until hearts are changed, cry loud until consciences are shifted, cry loud until foundations are shaken, cry loud until love is awakened. We have to cry loud until the poor are lifted.”

The campaign provided a Facebook livestream of Sunday night’s kickoff:

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells
Michael Nigro
Contributor
Michael Nigro is a leading photojournalist for Truthdig, known for his reporting from deep within major events. He was “on the ground” for the website at the infamous protest in Charlottesville, Va., when…
Michael Nigro

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