Poor People’s Campaign set for March 2

Maine Poor People’s Campaign organizers pictured are David Jolly, Murry Ngoima, and Chris McKinnon, handing out pamphlets promoting the upcoming rally. (photo by Jonathan Strieff)

by Jonathan Strieff

On Saturday, March 2, the Maine Poor People’s Campaign will lead a march and rally at the State House to kick off a 40-week effort to mobilize poor and low-wage voters ahead of the November elections. Simul­taneous direct actions are planned at 31 state capitals around the country and Washington, DC. The event will offer a platform for low-income Mainers to speak to the daily challenges they face and to articulate the legislative action needed to address them, including voting rights, livable wages, affordable housing, health care, women’s rights, gun safety, tribal sovereignty for the Wabanaki nations, and environmental justice. On Monday, March 4, organizers from the campaign intend to hand deliver their demands to Governor Janet Mills and every legislator in the State House.

In a press release, campaign organizers David Jolly and Linda Homer explained the goal of the months long effort is to harness the untapped power of poor and low-wage voters in the political process. Through door-to-door canvassing, voter registration drives, phone banking and other coordinated actions, the Poor People’s Campaign seeks to organize voters to around the issues most impacting Americans living in poverty.

According to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, in Maine, poor and low-income people account for 32.5 percent of the population. More than 35 percent of working adults earn less than $15 per hour. Nearly 162,000 households depend on SNAP benefits (food stamps) to feed themselves, benefits that were cut by as much as $250 per month last year. Poverty is considered to be the fourth leading cause of death in America, more deadly than homicide, gun violence, diabetes, or obesity.

The original Poor Peoples Campaign was conceived by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a large scale act of nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1968, two months after King’s assassination, organizers with the SCLC erected a Shantytown of more than 3,000 individuals on the National Mall in Washington D.C., called Resurrection City, in an effort to make visible the plight of poverty in America. After six weeks of turbulent occupation, the remaining demonstrators were cleared in a massive police sweep. The economic bill of rights and other demands of the campaign were never met.

Fifty years later, Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis revived the Poor Peoples Campaign to confront what they identified as the five systemic evils afflicting American society; Racism, Poverty, Militarism, Ecological Devastation, and the Distorted Moral Narrative of Religious Nationalism. In Maine, this took the form of rallies, worship services, and small group meetings and teach-ins. The work of the group emphasizes building power within local communities, changing the moral narrative, and eventually impacting policy for the benefit of the most marginalized people.

Saturday’s rally will gather at 10 a.m., in Capital Park, in Augusta. At 11 a.m., the assembly will march to the State House to rally. Anyone seeking additional information can contact mail@mainepoorpeoplescampaign.org.


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