Anti-poverty activists say they will continue a campaign of demonstrations and civil disobedience throughout the Ohio Valley despite arrests at some events and being blocked from Kentucky’s capitol building.
North Carolina minister and activist Rev. William Barber is one of the group’s leaders reviving Dr. Martin Luther King’s last effort before he was killed, the Poor People’s Campaign.
“The movement never stopped, it was assassinated two ways, physically and politically,” Barber said outside the Kentucky capitol in Frankfort.
Barber said the new Poor People’s Campaign also draws on the legacy of the war on poverty, which brought Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy to eastern Kentucky and other impoverished Appalachian communities more than 50 years ago.
“Over the years we’ve found out really the concerns over Appalachian populism and civil rights activism are the same thing, and basically that’s treat people right,” Barber said.
A central part of the new campaign is to show how racial divisions have kept poor people from working together to address common problems. Meanwhile, Barber said, poverty has dropped from the nation’s political debate even as income inequality has increased since King, Kennedy and others waged poverty campaigns.
“So this campaign in some way picks up that legacy because we didn’t lose the war on poverty, we left the field,” Barber said.
A new report from the United Nations focused on the 40 million Americans living in poverty. The UN report found Americans live shorter, sicker lives than do citizens of all other rich democracies, and that the U.S. has the greatest income inequality.