The Poor People’s Campaign event featuring Rev William Barber on Oct. 19 was a significant gathering of the Boston area movement. Trinity Church was not quite full and there was overflow seating in Old South.
There are four primary planks:
1) End poverty
2) End systemic racism
3) End climate disaster
4) End the war economy
Rev. Liz Theoharis is Rev Barber’s co-chair for the campaign. Both she and Rev Barber listed the same four themes in the same order, which shows that this is a consciously constructed agenda, one that they are probably repeating in their current tour of 30 or so cities. We therefore know that the Poor People’s Campaign is reaching out on one of our core peace issues. Peace Action looks forward to working with it as closely as possible!
Barber spoke at much greater length and with many facts, statistics, and historical perspective, including much about Boston and Massachusetts, and he also also spoke with passion; conceivably, the facts and historical dimension reflected his assessment, no doubt correct if so, about how to appeal to a largely white, educated audience that might be more represented in Boston than in other stops on their tour. He gave a substantial amount of time to the war economy segment, devoting most of it to a refutation of Gen. Kelly’s remarks in his press conference the same day about Trump’s call with Myeshia Johnson — certainly a timely topic, but did not address specific peace issues such as Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Korea, or nuclear weapons in any depth. He did mention once to condemn Trump’s “reckless talk about Korea”. Rev. Barber had quite a few statistics about military spending. “54% of the discretionary budget goes to the military – that’s immoral!” he shouted, and the crowd responded ecstatically.
He condemned so-called conservative Christians as heretics because they emphasize individualism rather than helping your neighbor, a point he has made at a greater length on other occasions and which reflects the sharp struggle with the “religious right”.
He and Theoharis both laid out their goal of a 30-city civil disobedience campaign starting on Mother’s Day 2018 with 1000 people per city and 2500 in Washington, DC, that would go on for 40 days. Look for more work to solidify that objective in the months to come.
Rev. Mariama Hammond, the leader of the Moral Movement in Boston, who has spoken at several Peace Action events in the past, also spoke at Trinity.
Several progressive organizations had group delegations seated in the front with large signs; they included SEIU and JWJ and maybe a couple of others. Four local low-income workers came up together and spoke about their personal challenges with jobs, income, health care, and the like.
We look forward to collaborating with the Poor People’s Campaign and the Massachusetts Moral Movement in the months to come!