Tayna Fogle and Pam McMichael, co-chairs of the Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign, got through the Capitol doors Monday and made it all the way to a velvet rope barrier that blocked their path at the lobby outside Gov. Matt Bevin’s office.

“First, we asked if the governor was in,” Fogle said. They also wanted to know if they could enter the office.

“They had a sergeant back there, and he said, ‘No, you cannot, and if you come across that rope, you’ll be arrested,’” said Fogle, from Lexington, who was among an estimated 125 protestors who crowded the Capitol steps just as a rain shower ended.

The Poor People’s Campaign has sponsored weekly rallies in more than 30 states in recent days, including one in Frankfort last week in which the featured speaker was the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who started the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina and is a co-chair of the national movement. Barber is expected to return to Frankfort on Wednesday for a press conference.

Monday’s rally was the fifth of six that are planned, and focused on homelessness and low wages and called for a living wage, union rights, and more spending on anti-poverty programs.

As they had last week, police refused to let the crowd inside the Capitol.

However, Fogle and McMichael were granted entrance.

“First, we asked if the governor was in,” Fogle added. “They had a sergeant back there, and he said, ‘No, you cannot.’ We asked if we could go in, and he said, ‘No,’ adding that if we came across the rope, we would be arrested.”

Fogle said she asked the officer if the rope, “was for us, and he didn’t answer.”

Fogle and McMichael, a Louisville resident, managed to persuade a woman, apparently an  office staffer, to take the demands, which were rolled up in paper scrolls.

The woman said she would deliver it to Bevin “through channels,” according to Fogle.

After Fogle said “they closed the door in our face,” the two women retraced their steps through the protestors, who had gathered inside at the metal detectors. The throng cheered Fogle and McMichael and chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “This is what hypocrisy looks like!”

Meanwhile, ministers, activists and others had taken turns at the microphone in front of the Capitol. They included the Rev. John Lee of Bowling Green, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes; Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO; Tia Kurtsinger-Edison, Jefferson County Teacher’s Association, and Christina Frederick-Trosper, a Knox County school teacher.

The Rev. Megan Huston of Bowling Green, also a People’s Campaign co-chair, emceed.

The Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign is part of a national movement led by clergy and anti-poverty organizations whose goal is to rekindle the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s March” and to demand substantial, systemic changes across the nation. These “40 Days of Action” in state capitols will conclude with a mass rally in Washington D.C. on June 23.

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Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.