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Protesters hold a sign that says, "Fight Poverty Not the Poor." (Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Poor People's Campaign Holds Cleveland Rally as March Toward DC Continues

Monday night's action in Ohio "will call attention to the needs of the 3.8 million poor and low-income people in the state and the 140 million people nationally who were poor or low-income before Covid."

Kenny Stancil

Economic justice advocates in Ohio and nearby states are convening in Cleveland on Monday for an in-person march and rally—one of at least 10 stops the Poor People's Campaign plans to make as it demands downwardly redistributive policies over the course of its monthslong journey to the nation's capital.

Members of the Ohio Poor People's Campaign—along with partners from campaigns in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan plus national co-chairs Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis—are set to march through the streets of downtown Cleveland, departing the U.S. Bank Plaza at 5:00 pm ET. Livestreamed speeches, scheduled to start one hour later at Trinity Cathedral, can be viewed here.

The list of speakers includes poor and working-class Ohioans "who are directly impacted by the policy violence of the U.S. Congress." The crowd can also expect to hear from "faith leaders and other moral voices from the community who demand this nation do MORE to live up to its moral call and end the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the denial of healthcare, militarism, and the war economy, and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism."

According to a campaign statement:

The priorities and demands of poor and low-wealth Ohioans will be front and center as they take on the lie of scarcity and put forward a Third Reconstruction agenda that demands, among other things: updating the poverty measure to reflect the real cost of living; [enacting] a living wage and [guaranteeing] the right of all workers to form and join unions; and [guaranteeing] quality healthcare for all. 

Monday night's action "will call attention to the needs of the 3.8 million poor and low-income people in the state and the 140 million people nationally who were poor or low-income before Covid," said the campaign. "Poverty is not a personal choice but a policy choice and even before Covid, these policies were killing and hurting people, with 250,000 dying from poverty each year in the U.S."  

"The reality of 140 million people who are poor or low-wealth and just one $400 emergency away from being poor—and who represent every race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and political party and account for 43.5% of the people living in the richest nation in the world—is a moral crisis," the campaign stressed.

The Cleveland rally is one of several "Mobilization Tour" stops the national campaign plans to make en route to the Mass Poor People's & Low-Wage Workers' Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls, which is scheduled to take place in just over three months.

"The Mobilization Tour will make at least 10 stops nationwide to mobilize, organize, register, and educate people for a movement that votes," the campaign announced. "Other cities on the tour include: Madison, Wisconsin; Raleigh, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Memphis; and the Delta of Mississippi." 

"The June 18 assembly in D.C. will be a generationally transformative declaration of the power of poor and low-wealth people and our moral allies to say that this system is killing ALL of us and we can't…we won't…we refuse to be silent anymore!" added the campaign.

Barber and Theoharis emphasized that June 18 "is NOT just a day of action."

Instead, they argued, "it is a declaration of an ongoing, committed moral movement to 1) shift the moral narrative; 2) build power; and 3) make real policies to fully address poverty and low wealth from the bottom up."

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