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United States New anti-poverty campaign aims to renew MLK’s fight

Organisers echo King’s call for power redistribution

A SUCCESSOR to Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign will be launched at rallies across the United States today, including planned civil disobedience in Washington DC.

The new campaign, founded by the Rev William Barber, aims to create a “mass movement to bring the problems of poverty to the nation’s conscience.”

Organisers pledged to bring the campaign’s causes “not just to Congress but to state capitals,” with events organised in more than 30 towns and cities across the country.

“We will protest at more than 30 statehouses and the US Capitol demanding a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting rights laws, new programmes to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

“We will hold teach-ins to learn more about these issues and how we can organise to transform our nation’s political, economic and moral structures,” the organisers said.

Dr King launched the original Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 to fight for economic justice for the US poor. It demanded human rights for citizens of all backgrounds and culminated with a march on Washington which led to around 3,000 people setting up a six-week protest camp in the National Mall.

Fifty years on, campaigners say that inequality is worse than it was in the 1960s, with 1 per cent of households owning 40 per cent of the country’s wealth and the median wealth of white households 10 times higher than that of black ones.

The campaign will bring together clergy, trade unionists and justice campaigns in 30 states, focused on Dr King’s call for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

Washington organisers say the campaign has the support of the Service Employees International Union and the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

With a focus on 12 core principles, including a commitment to non-violence, it calls for the development of leadership among those suffering the most from poverty, with “equal protection under the law non-negotiable.”

Campaigners said: “The centrality of systemic racism must be named, detailed and exposed. Poverty and economic equality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.”

Organisers are planning to offer workshops, teach-ins and training in peaceful civil disobedience ahead of a major national rally due to be held in Washington on June 23.

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