William Barber speaks at a rally

Activists with the Poor People's Campaign rally in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2021. (Photo: Poor People's Campaign/Twitter)

'This Is Manchin Against Us': Poor People's Campaign Targets Corporate Democrats at DC Rally

"Poor and low-income people are saying that we can no longer wait for voting rights, living wages, healthcare, immigration reform, and so much more."

With the rallying cry "Get It Done in '21," low-wage workers, caregivers, and activists from across the country converged on Washington, D.C. Monday to demand that Sen. Joe Manchin and other right-wing Democrats stop stonewalling progress on the Build Back Better Act, voting rights legislation, and other urgent priorities.

"If you don't get it done in '21, we are coming double in '22, and '23, and '24, and '25."

Organized by the national Poor People's Campaign and other groups, the demonstration included West Virginians who joined a motorcade that began at Manchin's state office in Martinsburg and ended on Capitol Hill, where participants blasted corporate-backed Democrats for obstructing measures that would protect the franchise from the GOP's nationwide assault, fund green energy initiatives, and bolster the social safety net.

"We're gathered here today to declare our independence from corporate lobbyists, the money-grabbers, and those who control the narrative about what's possible here in the United States," Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, told rallygoers in a fiery speech. "They want to separate us. They want you to fight for voting rights over here, and fight for living wages over there."

"That's the Washington, D.C. two-step. We know what game you're playing, and you ain't dividing us no more, no how, no way," Barber continued. "We come to say, 'Get it done in 2021.' If you don't get it done in '21, we are coming double in '22, and '23, and '24, and '25."

The demonstration featured speakers from several states who traveled to the nation's capital on Monday to voice outrage over continued congressional inaction in the face of widespread poverty, voter suppression, and climate chaos, such as the deadly tornado system that ravaged parts of the South and Midwest over the weekend.

"I'm a working father of three from Arizona, and I'm joining sisters and brothers here today to demand a full Build Back Better plan and to protect and expand voting rights," said John Wessel McCoy, a member of the Poor People's Campaign. "And while you're at it, get rid of that racist filibuster."

Guadalupe de la Cruz of Florida called attention to the importance of the expanded child tax credit, a benefit that could lapse if Democrats don't pass the Build Back Better Act before the end of the year--potentially pushing 10 million children back into poverty.

"The CTC helped me find a way to catch a break," she said.

The event came as Democrats in Congress continued to iron out the details of their flagship social spending and climate legislation, which can pass only if every member of the Senate Democratic caucus votes yes.

But at least two Democratic senators, Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have not yet committed to supporting the final $1.75 package, which right-wing Democrats cut nearly in half by slashing funding for some programs and entirely removing key provisions--from an ambitious clean electricity program to tuition-free community college to dental and vision benefits for Medicare recipients.

In West Virginia, as Kaiser HealthNews reported last week, "a quarter of people 65 and older have no natural teeth, the highest rate of any state in the country, according to federal data."

"Medicare doesn't cover most dental care, but consumer advocates had hoped that would change this year after Democrats took control of the White House and Congress," the outlet noted. "But those chances are looking slim because at least one Democratic senator--Joe Manchin of, yes, West Virginia--opposes adding dental and other benefits for Medicare beneficiaries."

To the dismay of progressives nationwide, Democrats have also made no discernible progress toward passing a substantive voting rights bill as state-level Republicans engage in aggressive partisan redistricting and push legislation that would suppress the vote on a massive scale.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly filibustered Democratic efforts to start debate on several voting rights bills, obstruction that has fueled grassroots demands for filibuster reform or abolition.

But Manchin and Sinema have refused to alter the 60-vote rule.

"Fifty-two senators--50 Republicans and two Democrats--are blocking millions of people [from the benefits of the Build Back Better Act]," Barber said in an MSNBC appearance ahead of Monday's demonstration. "It is a form of abuse, political abuse. It is sinful, it is wrong, and so the people from 33 states--impacted people--are coming to say, this is not Biden against Manchin. This is Manchin against us."

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said in a statement Monday that "poor and low-income people are saying that we can no longer wait for voting rights, living wages, healthcare, immigration reform, and so much more."

"We also must take lifesaving action to compel Congress and the White House to defend our democracy and lift from the bottom so everyone rises," Theoharis added.

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