The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Isabel Urbano,, 646-680-0905

Rev. William Barber Launches Nationwide Tour Challenging Trump Border Emergency Declaration

‘National Emergency Poverty and Truth Bus Tour’ to Hit Over Two-Dozen States, Highlight True Crises Facing Nation’s 140 Million Poor, Low-Income People 


The Revs. Dr. William Barber II and Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival announced Monday plans for a nationwide National Emergency Truth & Poverty Bus Tour aimed at highlighting the true emergencies facing the nation's 140 million poor and low-income people.

The announcement of the tour, which will launch later this month and hit more than two-dozen states, comes in response to President Trump's declaration of a state of emergency along the southern border in an attempt to divert $8 billion of funding away from other government projects and toward his border wall proposal.

"Instead of tackling the real emergencies of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation, the President is diverting funds to build a monument to white supremacy at our southern border," said the Rev. Theoharis. "Right now, there are 140 million people who are poor or living paycheck to paycheck, just one emergency away from poverty. Sixty-two million people are making less than a living wage and fourteen million families can't afford water."

Following the President's emergency declaration announcement, the Revs. Barber and Theoharis announced a nationwide action plan with the campaign's state coordinating committee members and prominent faith leaders to push back against the Trump administration's manufactured border crisis.

It is designed to shine a light on the five interlocking injustices the campaign has set out to dismantle: systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative. For example:

In Mississippi, ranked worst in the nation for poverty and household income, the Poor People's Campaign will travel through some of the poorest counties in the Mississippi Delta to reveal the plight of poverty and how conditions have worsened in the last 50 years. Testimonies from residents, historians, and civil rights activist will show the poverty crisis and the critical state of the Mississippi Delta from over 50 years ago until now.

In California, the Poor People's Campaign will organize a 12 day tour beginning on the Yurok Reservation in Northern California near the Oregon border to highlight issues facing indigenous communities. In Fresno County, the poorest county in California and the 2nd poorest city in the US, the campaign will convene a statewide Poor People's Hearing to uplift the economic apartheid in one of the highest agricultural producing regions. The tour will then make its way to San Diego toward the border shining a light on the current immigration and humanitarian crisis there. Along the way, stops will include some of the most impoverished communities in California, hearing testimony and bearing witness to the need for housing, food, jobs and dignity.

In Utah, the Poor People's Campaign will visit San Juan County, home to the state's highest poverty rate, the nation's last uranium mill. The your will feature Ute and Dine people who recently elected the county's first indigenous-majority commission.

The campaign has found that the president's $8B border wall budget could fund critical social safety net programs. Instead of directing $8B of funding toward the border wall, the government could provide 3.36 million children or 2.25 million adults with low-income health care for one year; fund 897,800 Head Start slots for children for one year; or power 9 million homes with wind energy for one year.

"We have real socio-political and moral emergencies--they are the ongoing realities of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation the war economy/militarism and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism," said the Rev. Barber. "These are not are not left or right, but moral issues that must be addressed. Democrats haven't done enough to make things better and Republicans do too much to make things worse."

The tours are expected to hit 28 states or more. In addition to raising awareness of the true emergencies facing the nation's poor, the nationwide tour kicks off an organizing effort aimed at registering poor and impacted people, clergy, and activists for a June Poor People's Moral Action Congress in Washington, DC.

States include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin


The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is co-organized by Repairers of the Breach, a social justice organization founded by the Rev. Barber; the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary; and hundreds of local and national grassroots groups across the country.

In 2018, the campaign waged 40 days of direct action, marking the most expansive wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history, calling attention to the issues facing the nation's poor and disenfranchised communities. More than 30,000 people participated in over 200 direct actions at statehouses from coast-to-coast and in Washington, DC. Over 3,000 people participated in nonviolent civil disobedience.

For the past two years, leaders of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival have carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation, meeting with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas to Marks, Mississippi to South Charleston, West Virginia. Led by the Revs. Barber and Theoharis, the campaign has gathered testimonies from hundreds of poor people and listened to their demands for a better society.

A Poor People's Campaign Moral Agenda, announced last year, was drawn from this listening tour, while an audit of America conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, showed that, in many ways, we are worse off than we were in 1968: 23 states have passed racist voter suppression laws; 140 million people live in poverty; each year more than 250,000 people die in the United States from poverty and related issues; and the share of national income going towards the top 1 percent of earners has nearly doubled.

The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a generationally transformative digital gathering called the Mass Poor People's Assembly and Moral March on Washington, on June 20, 2020. At that assembly, we will demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.