The Poor People’s Campaign, a “national call for moral revival,” on Monday launched six weeks of non-violent direct action in state capitols across the country, including in Frankfort.
The Poor People’s Campaign
A movement started by Martin Luther King over 50 years ago, just before he was assassinated, this modern-day reincarnation is led by the Reverend William Barber and the Reverend Liz Theoharis. The Reverend Dr. Barber is well known for his leadership of “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina. The Reverend Dr. Theoharis is the Co-Director of the Kairos Center and a Founder and the Coordinator of the Poverty Initiative.
The overall goals of the movement are “a moral agenda based on fundamental rights.” The list of specific demands can be found on their website, but are gathered into five overall groupings:
- Systemic racism
- Poverty and inequality
- Ecological devastation
- War economy and militairism
- National morality
The Frankfort event
On Monday morning, a number of activists were trained by the Poor People’s Campaign leaders on non-violent actions and protests. Then, at 2 PM, approximately 100 people gathered in a room in the Capitol Annex to hear various speakers address the issues listed above, with a focus on Kentucky. The “Speak Out” was emceed by the Rev. Dr. Donald K. Gillett, head of the Kentucky Council of Churches.
The Speak Out also became a Sing-Out, as Paul Whiteley and other activist musicians led the group in a number of choruses, with the main one being the apparent theme song of the movement, “Someone’s hurting our people, and it’s gone on far too long, and we won’t be silent any more.”
Once the speakers had concluded, the group adjourned to the steps of the Annex and began walking toward the Capitol. Some of the group put on armbands to indicate that they were willing to be arrested. That group proceeded into the street that runs between the Annex and the Capitol, and stood in the crosswalk to stop traffic.
Unfortunately for the group’s plans, traffic was very light, since General Assembly ended a few weeks ago. Only a few trucks and cars came down the street, and most decided to back out and go a different way. One truck sat there facing the protesters for a long time, and was still there when we left.
Next steps for the Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign
Monday’s event was the first of six weeks of “nonviolent direct action and voter mobilization,” culminating in a mass mobilization in Washington D.C. on June 23.
The Kentucky chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is co-led by Tayna Fogle, an organizing apprentice with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth; Reverend Megan Huston of First Christian Church of Bowling Green; and Pam McMichael, an activist and author.
The Kentucky group is planning various protests and activities throughout this time. According to their press release: “Protests and other activities during this first week will focus on child poverty, women in poverty and people with disabilities. Subsequent weeks will focus on systemic racism, veterans and the war economy, ecological devastation, inequality, and our nation’s distorted moral narrative.”
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