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Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, other faith leaders arrested in Poor People’s Campaign demonstration


Group demands better wages, jobs and housing

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins is taken into custody in Washington, D.C., during a peaceful demonstration. Photo by Jessie Palatucci

LOUISVILLE – Police in Washington, D.C., took the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins and other faith leaders into custody on Monday afternoon during a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. Hawkins, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Public Witness, was taking part in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.  

Standing under a banner that read “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live,” the group joined participants in nonviolent demonstrations in 40 state capitals around the country. The 40-day campaign focuses on a different topic each week. This week’s focus is on living wages, jobs, income and housing.

“We have tremendous economic, political and justice issues in this country which are compounded by leaders who produce harmful and vindictive legislation attacking health care, living wages and voting rights,” said Hawkins. “As a Christian, I am called to speak for and stand with those whose voice is stifled and silenced. We are called to be the proclaimers of ‘good news to the poor.’ ”

Hawkins has been mobilizing the faith community in and around the D.C. area since the start of the campaign.

Faith leaders gather outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building as part of the Poor People’s Campaign. Photo by Jessie Palatucci

“The voice of the church is called to speak loudest when times are most dire and to act in ‘such a time as this,’” he said. “In faithful conscience and obedience to God, I could do no less than to have my freedom limited in order to expand theirs.”

Hawkins and the others were arrested for demonstrating on Supreme Court grounds, a misdemeanor. After spending the night in jail, they were expected to be arraigned on Tuesday afternoon.

The Poor People’s Campaign kicked off on Mother’s Day as a continuation of the initiative launched by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago when he called for direct action at statehouses across the country as well as the U.S. Capitol.

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian pastor and co-director of the Kairos Center, are co-chairing the national effort. The campaign will conclude with a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on June 21. Hawkins says it’s just the beginning of a multi-year moral revival that will continue with mass voter registration in the fall.

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