Photo: A day of action organized by the Maine Poor People’s Campaign in Bangor in 2021 | Photo courtesy of Maine Poor People’s Campaign via Facebook
Mainers from across the state will travel to Washington, D.C., next month as part of a march to demand that those in power stop ignoring the 140 million poor and low-income people living in the U.S and work with them on a moral agenda of justice and equality.
The event, called the “Moral March on Washington & to the Polls,” will take place June 18 at 9 a.m. in the nation’s capital. The rally is being organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a national coalition building power across marginalized communities to change the moral narrative in the U.S. and demand an end to a series of interconnected injustices. The organization is based on a campaign of the same name created by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the 1960s to unite poor and impacted people around the country.
In Maine, the state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is mobilizing to bring hundreds of people down to D.C. to participate in the June march.
“There’s going to be impacted speakers from across the country,” Joshua Kauppila, a Bangor-based organizer working with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said of the event. “We’re going to be lifting our moral agenda up to those down in D.C., and really highlighting how these interlocking injustices of systemic poverty, systemic racism, militarism, the war economy, ecological devastation and that distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism are all part of the problem that we need to solve and that those solutions need to come from poor people.”
Kauppila said the event will feature speeches, music and cultural arts, and a voter registration drive as well as the opportunity for people across the nation to connect over shared issues of injustice.
“We’re facing just crisis after crisis and … poor and low-income people are so often shoved aside,” Kauppila said.
Along with building power through community connections and solidarity, Kauppila said the event will also serve as a way to advocate for the policy priorities the Poor People’s Campaign is pushing for. Some of those political goals include comprehensive COVID-19 relief that prioritizes essential workers and marginalized populations, quality health care for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and universal guaranteed housing.
Traveling to D.C.
Kauppila said the Maine Poor People’s Campaign is working with the bus share system rally.co to get people down to D.C. for the event. According to that site, there will be bus pickup locations in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Lewiston, Portland and Waterville in the evening on Friday, June 17, to bring people to Washington. Kauppila said participants would return to Maine on Sunday morning, the day after the rally.
More information on the bus schedule can be found here. Information on how to RSVP for the event can be found here.
Kauppila said the group has raised funds to ensure that those who can’t pay for a bus ticket or other associated costs of the trip can still go, as the group wants as many low-income Mainers as possible to attend to demonstrate the potential political power of poor people.
“We recognize that group of voters has not been activated for the primary reason that their issues are not being addressed and the politicians who claim to promote their issues don’t follow through,” Kauppila said.
Marcella Makinen, treasurer for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, added that the mass gathering in D.C. has the potential to be transformative in terms of demonstrating the reality of a U.S. system in which inequality has continued to skyrocket.
“It’s important to be changing the narrative on why people don’t have enough resources to eat and don’t have enough resources to pay their rent. It’s too easy to blame oneself and then that leads to depression,” Makinen said, arguing that “discovering that there’s a system where rich people get richer for not doing anything can be really liberating in and of itself.”
Willie Hurley, another organizer with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said he hopes the June rally will help connect disparate grassroots campaigns together in a shared push for justice.
“We have all these separate tiny little movements and organizations all working on their different things. This is an opportunity to bring all those things together,” Hurley said. “It’s 40 percent of the country, poor people. It’s the sleeping giant.”
Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maine Beacon, May 11 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/