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Activists with the Poor People's Campaign hold a protest

Demonstrators gather for the Moral March on Manchin and McConnell, a rally held by the Poor People's Campaign, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on June 23, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Poor People's Campaign Announces 'Season of Nonviolent Direct Action' Targeting US Senate

"If our actions result in the system believing it has to arrest us, then so be it. Civil disobedience is a badge and banner we will proudly wear," said Rev. William Barber.

Jake Johnson

The Poor People's Campaign announced Monday that over the next several weeks, it will hold a series of nonviolent demonstrations aimed at pressuring members of the U.S. Senate to end the 60-vote filibuster, protect voting rights from the GOP's nationwide suppression efforts, and approve a $15 federal minimum wage—progressive goals that Republicans and conservative Democrats have repeatedly thwarted in recent months.

"We cannot declare the immoral reality that democracy is in peril and then not engage with the moral challenge of nonviolent direct action."
—Rev. William Barber II, Poor People's Campaign

"There's no time to waste. Democracy vs. autocracy is the battle of our time," Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said in a speech Monday.

"We must escalate the nonviolent moral struggle for a Third Reconstruction," Barber added, referring to a slate of ambitious policy demands that includes a federal jobs guarantee, single-payer healthcare, and restoration of the gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In a press release on Monday, the Poor People's Campaign outlined its plans for a "season of nonviolent direct action" over the next month as the Senate GOP's obstruction—and Democrats' refusal to take the steps necessary to break it—threatens to derail much of President Joe Biden's policy agenda:

  • July 12, a massive national call-in to every senator, to shut down the switchboards if necessary;
  • July 19, the anniversary of the Women's Convention at Seneca Falls, nonviolent moral direct action in D.C. led by women from all over the country;
  • July 26, in all Senate offices, regardless of party, people in at least 45 states, will engage in nonviolent moral direct action;
  • August 2, nonviolent moral direct action focused on the U.S. Senate and led by a mass number of clergy and religious leaders with poor and low-wage workers.

"We cannot back down. We cannot compromise. We must act now," Barber said Monday. "We cannot declare the immoral reality that democracy is in peril and then not engage with the moral challenge of nonviolent direct action. If our actions result in the system believing it has to arrest us, then so be it. Civil disobedience is a badge and banner we will proudly wear."

Late last month, as Common Dreams reported, Barber and other religious leaders and activists were arrested during a demonstration outside the U.S. Senate building in the wake of the GOP's filibuster of the For the People Act, a popular bill that would expand ballot access and undercut state Republicans' attacks on the franchise.

In its present form, the legislative filibuster gives the minority party significant power by requiring 60 votes to pass—or even debate—most bills. Just a simple-majority vote is required to weaken or abolish the filibuster, but Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have publicly refused to touch the archaic rule.

Those two senators—along with several others in the Democratic caucus—also voted against including a $15 minimum wage bill in the coronavirus relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in March.

"The same people that suppress the vote will suppress your living wages," Barber declared in a fiery speech outside the U.S. Supreme Court last month. "Not one Democrat ran last year and said if you elect me, I'm gonna join the Republicans in their interposition and nullification... We've come here today to say there are some things that are non-negotiable. We don't need an insurrection, we just need a nonviolent, moral mobilization and direct action."


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