This Saturday, people across the country will come together digitally to demand action from public officials as part of the Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington.
The 2.5-hour program organized by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will unite the voices of faith communities, labor unions, and mobilizing organizations in 45 states and the District of Columbia to advocate for paid sick leave, free COVID-19 testing, rent freezes, voter protection, and more for the nation’s 140 million poor and low-income people.
“This is not the time for trickle-down solutions. Now is the time to reimagine what is necessary and possible in this country,” the event page states.
In an interview with Time, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign said, “if poor and low wealth people organize around an agenda and vote, they can fundamentally shift politics.”
Demands of the campaign include the restoration of voting rights, equal pay for equal work, access to fair housing, an end to mass incarceration, a commitment to clean energy, and an end to military aggression.
The mass digital justice gathering planned for this Saturday is not the first that Barber has led alongside co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis to push for a moral political agenda.
The pair reignited Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign two years ago on Mother’s Day, engaging 40 states and prompting the nation’s largest wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in the 21st century.
“We are here to birth and launch a movement,” Theoharis said at the 2018 launch held at National City Church in Washington, D.C. “This is not a commemoration of the Poor People’s Campaign. This is a re-consecration.”
Today, more than 40 states have local campaigns led by on-the-ground teams as part of the campaign’s commitment to centering the voices of those impacted.
“We have to develop leaders at the state level,” Nijmie Dzurinko, a coordinator for the campaign in Pennsylvania told Sojourners in 2018. “Because if this campaign is not a place where poor and dispossessed people are comfortable, then it’s nothing. If it’s not a place where poor and dispossessed people are leading, then it’s nothing.”
While Saturday’s gathering includes prominent names such as former Vice President Al Gore and actors Danny Glover, Jane Fonda, and Wanda Sykes, the featured speakers will be local testifiers who will tune in to the digital assembly from their home states.
Among those who will speak: “Service workers from the Midwest who have worked through the pandemic without PPE; families hurt by police brutality; a coal miner from Appalachia; mothers who have lost children due to lack of health care, residents of Cancer Alley in Louisiana, and an Apache elder who is petitioning the federal government to stop a corporation from destroying a sacred site in Arizona.”
The march is being held in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery that have spurred mass protests across the nation. It is something that does not escape Barber.
“We have to see this moment as a time for fundamental shifting,” he told Time. “What made that cop think he could do that to George is still a part and parcel of society, where too many people think they can use their power to crush people rather than lift people.”
Saturday’s event will be a time for “bold and visionary demands,” said Theoharis. “History shows that when those most impacted by injustice come together in a powerful movement, that this country can indeed change for the better.”
The march will be streamed at June2020.org on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST and again on Sunday at 6 p.m. EST. The broadcast will be interpreted into Spanish and American Sign Language and open captioned in English.