On March 15, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival brought demonstrations to 30 state capitols in support of its 14 Policy Priorities for the Biden administration’s first 100 days. Among the policies are “comprehensive, free, and just” COVID-19 relief, universal healthcare, redirection of the military budget to social needs, and many others. Groups assembled to speak out and deliver their demands to legislatures across the country while audiences at home watched and listened over livestream. Attendance nationwide was estimated at about a thousand people.
In Olympia, Washington, about 20 people gathered to speak, sing, and play music while an audience attended remotely. Poor People’s Campaign organizer Romy Garcia noted the sweeping attack on democratic rights underway in the country stating: “We are here today because 64 million voters, nearly a third of the electorate, are poor or low income. … Now, today, in many state legislatures, we have over 250 bills that are meant to deny the right to vote.”
Community advocate Liletha Williams described her life in extreme poverty: “I’ve always been scraping by. I’ve never been able to sustain my own life. I’ve always had to work 60 and 70 hours a week to pay my bills because of what I did when I was young because I was hungry.” Other speakers, from organizations such as Families Shoulder to Shoulder and Young Women Empowered related their experiences fighting to survive in poverty or denied their rights in an unjust system. Washington Federal and State Employees union President Mike Yestramski urged audience members to sign on in support of the 14 Policy Priorities.
Later that day, Poor People’s Campaign founders and co-directors Liz Theoharis and William Barber addressed supporters over a livestream on social media. They returned to the message about a mounting campaign against democratic rights in state legislatures across the country, with Barber commenting, “The extremists are scared, and that’s why they’re trying to block voters.”
Two days after the event, the Poor People’s Campaign issued a statement regarding the American Rescue Plan Act, the Congressional Democrats’ COVID-19 relief bill. While noting that “the political and economic narrative is shifting” in the country, the bill is “only the first of many [steps] to follow” in the struggle of poor, exploited, and dispossessed people. In the meantime, the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign will further unite the working class in its struggle for genuine political power.