Dr. William Barber (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
The Poor People’s Campaign, which has a Tennessee chapter, today launched a nonviolent protest to promote the plight of essential and low-income workers as states begin reopening the economy.
Today’s virtual media conference was led by the Rev. William Barber II and featured workers speaking of having inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE.)
A Dallas retail worker with underlying health conditions discussed isolating herself in her home to protect her children, who have asthma.
“We’re not really essential, we’re just expendable,” said Anita Jones. Jones said she risks losing her job and the ability to provide for her children if she stays home.
Representatives of the organization called for resistance through their campaign “Stay in place! Stay alive! Organize and don’t believe the lies!” They say the effort is in direct response to policies made to reopen the economy without addressing the concerns of low-income workers.
“Testing alone is not enough,” said the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “People have to have a way to stay safe from COVID and they have to have the ability to isolate.”
Theoharis said the organization believes reopening the economy before the virus has been contained will cause another resurgence,
The original Poor People’s Campaign was an initiative of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who announced in November 1967, a plan to organize low-income Americans of all races.
In 2017, Barber stepped down from his role as president of the North Carolina NAACP to launch a new effort to honor King, called the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.
Barber had planned a mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on the U.S. capital in June 2020, along with a 25-state tour. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the group was forced to cancel the tour and reimagine their movement. Leaders now plan to “digitally march on Washington” on June 20, through a mass campaign of social media, email and phone calls along with promoting voter registration.
PPC leaders want officials to address the underlying factors that caused the U.S. to be vulnerable to an epidemic before fully reopening the economy, including healthcare, living wages and systemic racism since many low-income and poor citizens are primarily people of color.
“Pandemics exploit the wounds of society,” Barber said.
A call to campaign leaders in Tennessee had not been returned at press time.
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