by Jackie King
“It’s time for a meeting!” — Bishop William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, thundered those words in Cleveland last month, summoning people from across the country to our nation’s capital on June 18 for the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. (See below for sign up info.)
At every historic juncture when faced with deep injustice or existential threat, people have come together “for a meeting in the public square” to draw clarity and strength from one another as they prepare for the struggle ahead. As Rev. Barber reminds us, this is one of those moments.
We are living with a pandemic that has killed more than a million people in our country, a war that threatens to spiral into a nuclear confrontation, and a sustained assault on voting rights that could install an authoritarian government. It’s time for a meeting.
This gathering in Washington represents the best chance we have, before the mid-term elections, to flex our movement muscle and awaken the nation to the dangers we face. It allows us to regroup and recharge at a national level during this dangerous time, before returning to our essential on-the-ground work back home.
We in the peace movement have a particular role to play. The Poor People’s Campaign has identified militarism and the war economy as one of the five interlocking evils that must be fought – along with poverty and widening inequality, systemic racism, ecological devastation, and the distorted narrative of religious nationalism.
None of these evils can be solved without challenging our government’s aggressive foreign policy and its obscene military budget (more than $800 billion proposed for 2023) that is draining funds from all other aspects of American life.
“At a time in history when our world has never been closer to nuclear annihilation, when we have irresponsible corporate entities [such as the Wall Street Journal] calling for a doubling of the military budget, then indeed we know we’re living in a nation nearing moral bankruptcy,” said Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, at a recent meeting sponsored by Back from the Brink.
Massachusetts Peace Action has mobilized for months with the Poor People’s Campaign, as a partner in this burgeoning movement. Members of our staff, interns, and longtime volunteer leaders have been working hard to ensure the success of the march and the organizing that will continue afterward. The Washington assembly is just one moment in a long road to peace and justice, but it is a crucial one.
If you have been debating whether to attend, we urge you to come! Now is the time to commit! To join the march, no matter how you plan to travel to Washington, sign up on the national RSVP page. To ride one of the buses the Poor People’s Campaign has arranged through “Rally.co” then also fill out this bus sign up form. Indicate if you want a regular ticket or a no-cost ticket. When you hit submit, the response page lists all the bus stops in Massachusetts (so far there are stops at 16 different locations in the state) and the codes needed for no-cost seats. Click on the link for the bus stop you are interested in, and you will be directed to the “Rally.co” sign-up page for that bus. At that point, you can either buy a regular ticket or use the code you were just given to sign up for a no-cost seat. Proof of vaccination and wearing of masks (except when eating) will be required on all buses. Drinks and snacks will be available.
Buses will leave the evening of Friday June 17th and will arrive in D.C. early the next morning. The Rally itself will gather at 9:00 am and begin at 10:00 am Sat June 18th at 3rd and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. Buses will leave D.C. at 4:00 pm and arrive back in Massachusetts late Sat. night or very early Sun. morning.
For those staying longer in D.C: In cooperation with the Poor People’s Campaign, CodePINK has been mobilizing peace groups to attend the June 18th march. In addition, CodePINK has organized the following peace events (locations to be determined) before and after the main PPC Assembly on the National Mall:
Fri June 17, 8-9pm: Peace Illumination: A gathering of peace and a light show
Sat June 18, 9am-2pm: Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March – National Mall
Sat June 18, 4-6pm: Anti-Militarism Teach-In
Sun June 19, 9am-12pm: Working Groups for Peace
Sun June 19, 12-3 pm: Join a Local Juneteenth Celebration
The CodePINK programs and sign-up forms can be found here. Given the increased dangers of expanding war and even possible nuclear conflict springing from the Ukraine crisis, we need the highest level of national cooperation that we can achieve. If you plan to be in Washington for several days, please join these urgent gatherings.
—Jackie King is a Board member of Mass. Peace Action and a Coordinating Committee member of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign.