The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Steph Derstine,,
Phoebe Rogers,

Hundreds of Poor People, Faith Leaders from 30+ States Visit More than 400 Senate, House Offices, Demand Action to Address Death by Poverty

On Day 2 of Poor People’s Campaign Moral Poverty Action Congress, Participants Hold Speakout Outside the Supreme Court, Demand Lawmakers Put an End to Poverty, Fourth Leading Cause of Death in America

Hundreds of Poor People’s Campaign leaders from over 30 states visited more than 400 Senate and House offices on both sides of the aisle Tuesday to demand lawmakers use their power to address poverty, which kills more people every year than homicide, but gets significantly less of the attention from politicians.

Following the visits, impacted people and faith leaders held a national speakout in front of the Supreme Court, where participants raised the alarm about the death sentence of poverty in America – the fourth leading cause of death in the country – and honored loved ones lost to poverty.

They then walked to the Capitol, where they joined Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee, who announced plans to reintroduce Wednesday a Third Reconstruction Resolution–a sweeping package of 20+ policies to tackle poverty and address other systemic injustices.

“Can you name the top 10 causes of death in America?” Bishop William J. Barber asked the crowd in front of the Supreme Court. “It would come as a surprise to many to know that poverty is right up there–in fact many ills that have inspired investigative committees, major policy investment and sustained attention from the public and private sectors kill less people than poverty.”

On Wednesday, Bishop Barber will lead a delegate of the Moral Movement to the White House. He will be joined by faith leaders, impacted people in the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry, and others to meet with senior officials to plan a meeting this summer with President Biden to hear from directly impacted people urge the administration to address the death by poverty that is devastating our nation.

“Given the abundance that exists in this country and the fundamental dignity inherent to all humanity, every person in this nation has the right to demand dignified jobs and living wages, housing, education, health care and welfare,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. But the truth is that millions of Americans are denied those fundamental rights, and thousands are dying as a result.”


At the speakout, poor people and faith leaders held signs that read, “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live,” “Lift from the Bottom, Everybody Rises” and “There are 140 Million Poor and Low Wealth People in the U.S.” They wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Poverty is the 4th Leading Cause of Death – Higher than Homicide,” and “Poverty = Death, America’s Shame” and they chanted “Poverty equals Death, Fight Poverty, Not the Poor.”

“Thirty-nine percent of our population in Ohio lives in poverty,” said Joyce Kendrick Middletown, Ohio. “During that time, Congress expanded the social safety net. With stimulus payments and extra SNAP benefits, I was hoping to finally, maybe break out of the survival mode I was in. All that is gone. Lawmakers let the SNAP expansion and other pandemic programs expire. I’m back in survival mode. I’m back to choosing between proper medical care and a proper meal. I need stronger safety net protections that won’t be taken away by lawmakers or by complicated eligibility requirements.”

The Moral Poverty Action Congress comes as hundreds of thousands of Americans are being kicked off of Medicaid, child poverty is on the rise after the expanded child tax credit was allowed to expire, and as we near the 14th year since the impossibly low federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour was increased. And it follows a manufactured debt ceiling crisis that was resolved on the backs of poor people.

“My son, Quantez Burks, 37 years old was put in jail on a misdemeanor charge. Little did he know that he had 18 hours left in his life and wouldn’t see day again. My son was brutally beaten by correctional officers at the Southern Regional Jail,” said Kimberley Burks, of West Virginia. “I’m not going to be silent anymore. My son was 37 years old. He was a homeowner, he was a father, his daughter just graduated from Ohio State University. He was in there on a misdemeanor charge. I will not remain quiet anymore. Because we’re poor we’re going to be washed away, swept under the rug, looked over. We’re not having it anymore.”

This year’s Congress builds off The Mass Poor People’s and Low Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls last June, in which thousands of poor and low-wealth people marched and rallied ahead of a massive voter mobilization drive for the midterm elections.

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.