Thousands Demand Justice and Equity at Poor People’s Campaign Moral March June 27, 2022
On June 18, thousands upon thousands of diverse people — including PSR members and staff — converged “in real life” on Washington, D.C. to demand that the United States reorient its priorities to put the people first. On a blustery, sunny day, faith leaders joined forces with marchers from across the USA representing labor, social justice, disarmament, environmental, veterans’ rights and other movements in a “moral fusion” to express their common vision of a hopeful future at the “Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls.” This event was organized by the Poor Peoples’ Campaign. With themes of “Forward Together, Not One Step Back” and “We won’t be silent anymore,” it was an outpouring of concern, compassion, solidarity and hope for a “Moral Reset” in deeply troubling times.
The event’s title very intentionally included the phrase “and to the polls.” Multiple speakers representing the Poor People’s Campaign pointed to a strategy centered around voter turnout among America’s 140 million poor and low-wage people. High voter turnout in these groups could bring about a dramatic political shift.
PSR’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program is working to find common cause with other movements and mobilize Americans to support the work of coalitions promoting equity, inclusion and justice — and jointly demand from policymakers a just transition to a sustainable society that prioritizes human needs first and has no need of nuclear weapons. Many of the organizations and coalitions PSR works with are also employing this intersectional model.
Early on, the Back from the Brink Coalition saw the intersectional organizing value of the Moral March, decided to become a Mobilizing Partner for the march, and organized a joint zoom meeting on April 20 with leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign. At the Moral March, Back from the Brink Coalition assembled a highly visible group from around the nation, including entire teams of people traveling to DC from Greater Boston PSR and Chesapeake PSR. In the lead-up to the Moral March, PSR/National, Women’s Action for New Directions, Union of Concerned Scientists, Peace Action, and other disarmament-oriented organizations also signed on as Mobilizing Partners for the march and on June 18, these disarmament-minded marchers all rallied together.
How did it feel to be a part of the rally? Let’s hear from participants:
Poor People’s Campaign Co-chair Rev. Dr. William Barber III
“We are not here to beg, but to demand. What we are demanding is not radical, it is simply right. We have come to put a face and a voice on these numbers who are in poverty–to show that behind them, inside them are real people and real lives. They are us, we are them, and we won’t be silenced anymore.
As long as there are 140 million poor and low wealth people in this country–and we know it doesn’t have to be this way–we won’t be silent anymore. As long as there are 87 million people who are uninsured or under-insured, and everybody in the Congress gets free health insurance while they vote against us to have the same thing, we won’t be silent anymore.
As long as our military spends twice as much as Iran, Iraq, Russia and North Korea combined, and we know that just 10% of that bloated military budget could provide health care and public education, we won’t be silent anymore.”
Poor People’s Campaign Co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
“We’re the Poor People’s Campaign — a national call for moral revival, a moral fusion movement of the poor, and activists, and all who will not stand for death, denial of health care, suppression of our votes and everything of injustice that we’re experiencing. We’re here, responding to these stories, lifting up the truth of our nation, putting faces and voices on immense injustice, but also showing where our hope really is. Hope comes from the bottom, from those most directly impacted by the profound evils of America. It’s the poor, its the low wage, it’s the locked up, looked over, and left out, it’s those excluded and exploited who are the very social force who can change this society, unsettle our complacency, organize a Third Reconstruction and fully address poverty and low wages from the bottom up.”
Jasmine Owens, Lead Organizer and Policy Coordinator for PSR’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program
“Attending the Poor People’s Campaign Moral March was truly an inspiring and hopeful moment amidst a sea of hostility, violence and negativity that is hurting our nation, our communities. Standing in solidarity amongst people from so many different locations, backgrounds, occupations, drove home the point that we cannot achieve a more just, equitable world for everyone alone — we have to authentically show up and work together across movements to fight for a better future. There is no other option if we want to experience a world free from nuclear weapons before it’s too late.”
Barb Gottlieb, PSR Environment and Health Program Director
“I was surrounded by people who had come up by bus from North Carolina, Texas and Georgia. It was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve been in, in years. Truly a rainbow of humanity, in fact not just in words. You could tell from people’s signs that they were making connections between poverty and unmet needs and the urgent necessity of cutting defense spending.”
Denise Duffield, Associate Director, PSR-LA and Back from the Brink Steering Committee member
“I’m incredibly proud of Back from the Brink’s leadership in becoming a National Mobilizing Partner for the PPC Moral March. Nuclear weapons are, of course, part of an unjust and immoral system. It is outrageous that we spend billions on weapons that threaten our very existence while 140 million people suffer from poverty and the harms that come with it, disproportionately people of color threatened by growing racist violence and subject to voter suppression as well. The PPC’s call for moral revival is imperative, and that means the system must change, and I believe we must be part of the movement to change it.
The stories we heard at the PPC Moral March were devastating, heartbreaking, and enraging — motivating me to do more to confront the status quo that causes such pain and keeps us all under the threat of nuclear annihilation. At the same time, my spirit was uplifted to be among so many beautiful souls working for justice, peace, and democracy.”
Gwen DuBois, MD, Chesapeake PSR President
“Those of us committed to nuclear abolition work came together both from PSR and Back from the Brink to add our voices to others who came from different struggles on the common road to peace, justice, equity, diversity–for environmental sustainability and an end to racism and militarism. As one of PSR’s earliest leaders, Dr. Jack Geiger, once reminded us, ‘nuclear weapons kill explosively, environmentally, economically, emotionally, and existentially.’”
Alex Jasset, PSR-LA Nuclear Threats & Energy Justice Program Manager
“It was great to be surrounded by such diverse and dedicated activists at the Poor People’s Campaign March who are working for a more just and peaceful world. Given that my work spans both nuclear weapons abolition and environmental justice, it was inspiring to hear the speakers so eloquently describe the interlocking injustices we face as well as the innovative, community-led solutions we need to create and implement.”
Sean Meyer, Strategic Advisor/Consultant, Back from the Brink Coalition
“The event was incredibly powerful, heart wrenching — and inspirational. Working closely with the Poor People’s Campaign these past few months has opened my mind and heart in profound ways — and shifted how I think about and plan to continue with my life’s work — campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons.
To build real power, to bring about fundamental change in U.S. nuclear weapons policy we can’t be siloed. We can’t focus on incremental change. We need to be provocative. We need to confront those in power and make them uncomfortable. We must demand leadership from those who claim to be our allies and champions. We must find common cause and build powerful relationships with those whose safety, security and well being are threatened everyday.”
John Reuwer, MD, PSR Vermont activist
“Being present for the Poor People’s Campaign rally was energizing for me, reminding me of the antinuclear rallies of decades gone by. What a joy to be away from mainstream media with its constant barrage of fear and war-mongering, to be with many thousands of people walking, listening and cheering for common-sense policies on so many issues that determine our quality of life and the security of our future. Wealth inequality, militarism, and racism were the core of concerns for this jolly crowd of peace activists, union members, religious folks, and lots of ordinary people who agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we can overcome these three great evils of our time.”