Hundreds of low-wage workers, faith leaders, civil rights organizers and liberal activists were arrested in demonstrations in Washington and outside statehouses across the US on Monday as they resumed the work Martin Luther King left unfinished.
Fifty years after King launched the Poor People’s Campaign against economic inequality, militarism and racial injustice, demonstrators revived that fight, kicking off 40 days of nonviolent action.
The new effort, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is being led by co-chairs William Barber, a pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Liz Theoharis, an ordained minister and anti-poverty campaigner from New York City.
In Washington, the group gathered on the lawn outside the US Capitol to hear Barber declare: “Something’s wrong in America.”
Their action on Monday, Barber continued, was not just a commemoration of King’s anti-poverty efforts, it was a new call-to-arms.
“We are here to have a reconsecration and a re-engagement because you do not commemorate the death of [a] prophet,” Barber said, his voice building as he spoke. “You go to where they were killed, reach down in the blood, pick up your baton and carry it the next round of the way. Now who’s ready?”
The crowd parted and Barber and Theoharis led a procession of activists trained in civil disobedience toward the street, where they were prepared to be arrested. Two-by-two the demonstrators walked, representing nearly three-dozen states and Native American reservations.
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