After six consecutive Mondays of “moral witness” in almost 40 states across the U.S., more than 1,000 local activists were arrested in civil disobedience actions as they rallied for an intersectional approach to the nation’s problems as part of the new Poor People’s Campaign. This year’s campaign comes 50 years after the action Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was organizing when he was assassinated in 1968. In addition to King’s original “triple threats” of protest targets of systemic racism, poverty and militarism, this year organizers added two additional threats — ecological devastation and our distorted national morality.
The multi-state campaigns culminated in a rally on the national mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 23. As several thousand people gathered on the mall, the event was livestreamed to many more across the country. Campaign organizers from each of the participating states, most of them poor themselves, addressed the crowd, which included people of all races, ages and backgrounds.
The campaign’s two national co-chairs – United Church of Christ minister Liz Theoharis and the Rev. William Barber – spoke last before an hourlong march to the Capitol. In his short speech, Rev. Barber, who initiated Moral Monday protests while head of the North Carolina NAACP, replicated later in other states, emphasized that the gathering on the mall marked the beginning, not the end, of the new Poor People’s Campaign. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus was there, and recorded this excerpt from his speech.