The Poor People’s Campaign Lives

words and photos by Susan Fried

On an unusually hot May 14th, the Poor People’s Campaign kicked off 40 days of direct non-violent action in Olympia Washington. The effort is part of a movement in more than 30 other state capitals around the country for “A National Call for Moral Revival.”

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Ralph Abernathy founded the Poor People’s Campaign in 1967. Abernathy explained a year later the intention of the campaign was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.” The revived effort has many demands, but can be summed up in the words of a song sung by the protestors, “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live.”

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Every week of the six weeks of action hosts a theme, the first of which was “Somebody’s Hurting Our People,” which emphasized the plight of poor women, children, and people living with disabilities. Over the remaining weeks of the campaign, clergy, people living in poverty, and activists will continue their fight for a moral agenda that challenges the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the military-industrial complex.

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Although thousands of people in other parts of the country faced arrest for their non-violent protests, including the Reverend William Barber, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, there were no arrests in Olympia. Many of the participants were prepared to be taken into custody and the second verse of “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” says as much with the refrain, “and before this campaign fails we’ll all go down to jail, everybody has a right to live.”

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The Poor People’s Campaign for social and economic justice will continue with non-violent civil disobedience and teach-ins for the next six weeks culminating on June 23rd with a Global Day of Solidarity and Sending Forth a Call to Action Mass Rally in Washington DC. For more information go to the organization’s website or the Washington Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page.

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