Planning underway for June 29 Poor People’s mass march in D.C.
Poor People’s Campaign, Repairers of the Breach provides leadership, organizing, policy, strategy, media, cultural arts, and partnerships support to the Campaign.

WASHINGTON—Planning is underway for the June 29 Poor People’s Campaign’s mass march in D.C., with a turnout expected in the tens of thousands to elevate elimination of poverty to the top of the nation’s political agenda.

The march, which will begin at 10 a.m. that day, will also be the kickoff of an intensified campaign to convince millions more of the nation’s 140 million poor and low-wealth people—now at least 30% of the population of each state—to register and vote this fall, says Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair, the Rev. William Barber II.

“In many, many states, it would take only two or three percent” of the poor and low-wealth people the campaign will try to reach this year “to change the outcome” of elections. The campaign aims to reach at least 15 million people, double its figure of 2020.

The key theme of the campaign will be poverty, its costs, and how its eradication would enrich not just the poor and low-wealth people, but the entire nation, by making use of the full extent of their skills, brains, and talents and by raising their incomes and share of the economy.

Poverty is the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S., though it’s often disguised via diseases and ailments the poor suffer from, inadequate health care, malnutrition, and substandard housing, the campaign points out.

Solving those problems, plus enacting stronger worker rights, restoring and strengthening voting rights, crafting a living wage, converting “the war economy” to spending on education, housing, and health care, and exposing false preachers who equate Christianity with right-wing politics are also march aims.

“We’ll have a casket decorated with the names of people” who died from poverty, Barber said. “The people speaking will be impacted folk. We have to make people understand that poverty costs lives.”

The June 29 march and subsequent action have strong labor support. “The entire AFL-CIO will mobilize with us on June 29,” Barber told the planning meeting. “The same people who are against voting rights are against workers’ rights,” he pointed out—paraphrasing a 1961 statement from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Service Employees, Black Voters Matter, the Union of Southern Service Workers, Reform Jews, U.S. Muslims, and the Presbyterian Church will also lead the organizing, Barber added.

Campaign co-chair the Rev. Liz Theoharis said Poor People’s Campaign canvassers will also take the march’s message to housing authorities and coalitions that aid the homeless.

The campaign will also post and circulate organizing videos, take to social media, and urge “every progressive house of worship” to post pro-march banners out front, he said. There’ll be video trucks roaming streets of major cities, “especially on weekends where people can see” tapes from the campaign’s prior marches in D.C. and at state capitals.

Doing it before the conventions

“We’re doing this before the conventions” of both major political parties “because we don’t endorse candidates, we endorse issues,” Barber said. Theoharis added change “won’t happen if we are silent.”

The march is needed, as Barber often says, because poor and low-wealth people don’t vote because candidates for office—from the presidency on down—don’t discuss poverty on the campaign trail.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, he said, there were 30 debates between presidential hopefuls, and not one of them mentioned poverty. The only occurrence came when Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, now the president, addressed a Poor People’s Campaign conference in North Carolina.

There may be a rerun of this disinterest in poverty just before the march: The first debate between Biden, again the Democratic nominee, and Republican ex-president Donald Trump has just been scheduled for June 27, NBC News reported. Trump is the GOP nominee again.

“We have to mobilize in a way that people pay attention. We can’t have an election season where every day is a trial in New York,” Barber warned, a reference to Trump’s hush-money cover-up trial now winding up in the Big Apple.

That’s the sole trial, of four trials Trump faces, where voters will know the verdict before the November balloting. Trials in Georgia and D.C. cover his seven attempts to steal the 2020 election, while a Florida federal trial would tackle Trump’s stolen secret papers from the White House. All have been postponed via Trump lawyers’ maneuvers.

The Poor People’s Campaign is recruiting volunteers to place leaflets and flyers promoting the march in houses of worship, on bulletin boards, in barber shops, pool halls, and beauty salons, outside meeting halls, and in contacting religious leaders to urge them to publicize it, too.

There will be public service TV and radio announcements, with participants in the Zoomed planning meeting already suggesting likely D.C. and Baltimore-area radio and TV host stations.

Barber promised this march would not repeat one mistake by veteran organizer Bayard Rustin when arranging the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“One of the strategic missteps” Rustin made “was to say they’re coming to D.C. to stay until change comes.” Those marchers did not remain in the Nation’s Capital beyond that August day, but their impact was a key factor in helping LBJ push the 1964 Civil Rights Act through a reluctant U.S. Senate—by breaking the Southern segregationists’ filibuster there.

There’s one more point the campaign will make, Barber says: “We’ve got a plan not just to save democracy, but of the kind of democracy we want to save. These are the issues that can save the heart of this democracy.

“We can’t let January 6”—the Trumpite invasion, insurrection, and attempted coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol three years ago—“be the last image of what happens in D.C.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.