Women speak out at Poor People’s Campaign march and get arrested
by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Singing freedom songs and fighting for voting rights and a living wage on Monday, women from around the country converged on Washington, D.C., for a march and season of action by the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) and its supporters.
Failing to heed calls by Capitol Police to disperse, much of the crowd was arrested after marching about a block and a half and blocking traffic while singing lyrics such as “Somebody’s hurting my sister and it’s gone on for far too long.”
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said she was one of about 75 people who were arrested during the Women’s Moral Monday March on Washington. Others included the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, Co-Moderator of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“It was an honor to join with women from across the United States in nonviolent moral fusion direct action,” said Kohlmann, Connectional Presbyter and Stated Clerk of New Castle Presbytery. “Together, we put our bodies on the line in the pursuit of justice and liberation for all, not just the privileged few.”
The march (watch here) drew participants from more than 35 states and dozens of organizations, labor unions, denominations and congregations, singing lyrics such as “We have nothing to lose but our chains,” according to the PPC. The four main goals:
- Ending the Senate filibuster
- Passing all the provisions of the stalled For the People Act
- Fully restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act
- Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
During initial remarks near the U.S. Supreme Court building, participants lamented that ground is being lost when it comes to voting rights and that many Americans are struggling to get by on meager wages.
Members of the crowd shouted, “That ain’t right,” as Mindy Bergeron-Lawrence of the Maine Poor People’s Campaign described her experience in the fast-food industry.
“I’ve worked at McDonald’s for 18 years and still don’t make a living wage, and during that time, I have seen countless women working hard to take care of their families and struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “They work two jobs, they receive food stamps and some talk casually about going to the food pantry or filling up on bread so that their children can have a nutritious meal.”
Theoharis pointed to the “immoral obstructionism” of Congress as she declared that “our democracy is in peril” and that “economic justice is being denied.”
“The extremist politicians who are oppressing and stealing our ability to vote are the same politicians who deny living wages, refuse to expand health care, exploit immigrants and LGBTQIA people and women, and so we march,” said Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. “We march for our children. We march for our elders. We march for our families. We march for our partners. We march for our communities. We march because it is immoral — it is wrong — to take away our voting rights and to steal the promise of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for absolutely everyone. We march so that we can move forward together, not one step back.”
In support, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the PPC, shouted, “Listen to the women. America, here are your leaders. If they birth us our children, they can rebirth America. These women are showing the way.”
The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Associate Director of Advocacy for the PC(USA), attended the event as a witness and said he was inspired to see a strong Presbyterian presence.
“To witness the faith and passion of a movement being led by women of faith from every area of society, race, socioeconomic status, and educational level was tremendously inspirational,” he said. “This is not a one-time effort and being part of such a movement is motivational to my work.”
Kohlmann explained the spiritual basis for participating. “Jesus said in John 10:10b, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ I believe Jesus means for that to be true here and now, in this world, and I believe that we are called as the body of Christ to do everything we can to establish God’s beloved kin-dom for all people. Today’s action and my subsequent arrest were my effort to move us a little step closer to that vision.”
To sign an open letter to senators or learn more about the PPC’s Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action, which will include an Aug. 2 action with faith leaders and others, go here.
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.
Categories: Advocacy & Social Justice, Peace & Justice
Tags: $15 minimum wage, 1965 voting rights act, 223rd general assembly 2018, arrested, civil disobedience, compassion peace & justice, filibuster, for the people act, john 10:10b, kairos center for, office of public witness, poor peoples campaign, presbyterian ministry at the united nations, rev dr liz theoharis, rev. cindy kohlmann, rev. dr. william barber ii, Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, u.s. supreme court building, women's moral march on washington
Tags: assembly of the presbyterian church, associate director of advocacy, courtesy of the presbyterian office, general assembly of the presbyterian, hawkins associate director of advocacy, jimmie hawkins associate director, ministry at the united nations, monday march on washington, moral monday march on washington, office of public witness, photo courtesy of the presbyterian, poor people's campaign, presbyterian church u.s.a, presbyterian ministry at the united, presbyterian office of public, presbyterian office of public witness, public witness and the presbyterian, theoharis co-chair of the poor, witness and the presbyterian ministry, women's moral monday march
Ministries: Compassion, Peace and Justice, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations