Poor People’s Campaign draws over 200 at Augusta rally

by Jonathan Strieff

Well over 200 demonstrators gathered in Capitol Park, in Augusta, on Saturday, March 2, as part of a nationwide direct action organized by the Poor People’s Campaign. With simultaneous events taking place in 32 state capitols and Washington DC, the event kicked off a 40-week effort to mobilize poor and low-wage workers ahead of the November elections. Participants led call and response songs and displayed homemade signs before marching from the park to rally in front of the Blaine House and the capitol building.

The event brought together social activists, faith leaders, and poor and low-wage workers to demand legislative action to address the crisis of poverty in the United States.

Rev. Dr. Jodi Hayashida, a tri-chair organizer for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, opened the assembly by sharing several unsettling statistics.

“Our state capitols are not just symbolic. The decisions made here regarding minimum wage, access to health care, access to housing, sovereignty, women’s rights, voting rights, immigrant’s rights, public education, and policy violence directly impact our daily lives. In this country, the richest nation in the history of the world, poverty is the fourth leading cause of death, claiming 800 lives every day. Poverty is the result of policy choice and is preventable through policy change. The moral, economic, and social crisis at hand must and will be abolished.”

Coordinating committee member, Linda Homer, spoke to the campaign’s mission of organizing infrequent voters around the policies most impactful to Mainers living in poverty.

“This primary season, and in November, we will vote our demands at the ballot box. We will send a message to the legislators responsible for the unrelenting policy violence toward poor and low-income people that we wont be silent any more.”

Homer went on to recognize many organizations offering material support for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, including Solidarity Bucksport, the Maine Council of Churches, the Maine Peoples Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Churches of Augusta, Brunswick, Auburn, and Damariscotta, the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, the Church of Universal Fellowship, the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network, First Congre­gational Church of Hampden, Acadia Friends Monthly Meeting, and the Vassal­boro Quart­erly Meeting of the Reli­gious So­ciety of Friends (Quaker).

In demanding an end to poverty, the Poor People’s Campaign identified specific policy issues to organize voters behind: $15 minimum wage, an end to voter suppression and the expansion of voting rights, fully funded public education for all, health care for all, affordable and adequate housing, worker rights, women’s rights, end to gun violence, environmental justice, and just immigration laws.

On June 15, the Poor People’s Campaign will stage a national march on Congress, in Washington DC. In Maine, organizers will continue hosting events, staging voter registration drives, phone banking, and door to door canvassing about the issues between now and the November elections. Future events will be announced at facebook.com/maineppc, twitter.com/MainePPCampaing, and instagram.com/MainePPCampaign.

Jonathan Strieff is a freelance contributor to The Town Line.


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