June 18th March on Washington Demands Action on Rising U.S. Poverty

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, conducted by Scott Harris

For months now, the Poor People’s Campaign has been organizing for their June 18th rally called the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. The action, co-sponsored by a broad coalition of groups including the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, Sunrise Movement and Black Voters Matter,is committed to launching a moral movement to “Shift the moral narrative; Build power; and Make real policies to fully address poverty and low wealth from the bottom up.”

The organizers declare that the gathering in Washington, D.C. will focus public attention in order to “address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism and the war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism.”

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. She serves as the director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. Here Rev. Theoharis talks about the goals of the June 18th Poor People’s  Moral March on Washington, emphasizing that this is not a one day of protest, but rather the launch of a new social movement.

REV. DR. LIZ THEOHARIS: This Saturday, this Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls, aimed to be the largest gathering of poor and low wealth people this country has ever seen. We have about probably more than, at this point, 300 different organizational partners. We have you know, thousands of people coming from states across the country.

Right now, actually, people are traveling in order to be able to participate. And folks are biking here, walking here, taking caravans here, and then lots of buses. And even flying, to be honest.

Our movement is rooted in love and justice. You know, but this gathering, it’s not a celebration. It’s not a, you know, kind of get-together. It’s a declaration that somebody’s been hurting our people. It’s gone on for far too long and we won’t be silent anymore. And so we’re here not because we actually want to be gathering, but because we have to. I mean, we live in a country that has 140 million people who are poor or one small emergency from absolute economic ruin.

That’s almost half of the U.S. population. And this was before COVID even hit. And when you you see how poor and low-income people are hurt first and worse by so many of the different problems that we’re seeing, when you see that kind of interconnection between gun violence and the climate crisis and escalating tension and war, when you see the attacks on women and on trans-youth and workers, it’s so clear that this nation needs a moral revival of our greatest moral values and needs to put forward an agenda that says, you know, it does not have to be this way.

And that those that are most impacted by injustice, by the injustice of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the denial of health care, militarism, the war economy, and this false moral narrative — religious nationalism and white supremacy — this is not as good as it gets. And we need to, you know, keep on mobilizing and organizing. And so hoping that everybody that is listening in, you know, either is able to kind of make your way down to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. this Saturday.

We also will be live-streaming it. But to hear the cries and the pain and the power coming from poor, low-income people.

SCOTT HARRIS: Thanks, Rev. Theoharis. Tell our listeners a bit about the goals. Certainly you set out the agenda here. But at the end of next weekend, what do you want to have accomplished here in next Saturday’s action?

REV. DR. LIZ THEOHARIS: The purpose of something like a moral march on Washington and a powerful assembly of poor and low-wage workers is about pricking the conscience of the nation. Making people pay attention. You know, the first 100 minutes of the program on Saturday, we’ll be hearing from those that are most impacted from every state across this country and hear that pain and also see the solutions and power that is coming from those that are most impacted by these issues.

So when we look today at the kind of of injustice that is so widespread and so deep, we know that we can’t be silent about these issues anymore. And we have to put in front of the nation the voices and the faces of people who were suffering before COVID. But it’s only gotten worse, as well as all the different issues that are impacting people.

And so, you know, when you look at history, you see that generationally transformative events like the assembly that is going to take place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, you know, play a very important and needed role in making the nation confront actually the kind of issues that are at hand and to build the kind of power amongst people to, you know, in the words of someone like Dr. King, make those in power, say “Yes” when they may be desirous of saying “No.”

We’ve been hearing too much “No. No to expanding health care. No to raising wages. No to protecting our voting rights and expanding them. No to having public education to the fullest extent possible.” And so we need to be able to declare that it doesn’t have to be this way. And we’re going to build up the power to enact the kind of change we need to see in the world.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharris (29:07) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

For more information, visit The Poor People’s Campaign at poorpeoplescampaign.org/June18  and Poor People’s Campaign at
poorpeoplescampaign.org. Follow them on Twitter at

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