Poor People’s Campaign: Trump wall is “monument to white supremacy”
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, center, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, left, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign. | Mark Humphrey / AP

WASHINGTON—The Revs. Dr. William Barber II and Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival announced Monday plans for a nationwide National Emergency Truth & Poverty Bus Tour aimed at highlighting the true emergencies facing the nation’s 140 million poor and low-income people.

The announcement of the tour, which will launch later this month and hit more than two-dozen states, comes in response to President Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency along the southern border in an attempt to divert $8 billion of funding away from other government projects and toward his border wall proposal.

“Instead of tackling the real emergencies of systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation, the president is diverting funds to build a monument to white supremacy at our southern border,” said the Rev. Theoharis. “Right now, there are 140 million people who are poor or living paycheck to paycheck, just one emergency away from poverty. Sixty-two million people are making less than a living wage and fourteen million families can’t afford water.”

Following the president’s emergency declaration announcement, the Revs. Barber and Theoharis announced a nationwide action plan with the campaign’s state coordinating committee members and prominent faith leaders to push back against the Trump administration’s manufactured border crisis.

It is designed to shine a light on the five interlocking injustices the campaign has set out to dismantle: systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the distorted national narrative around morality.

In Mississippi, ranked worst in the nation for poverty and household income, the Poor People’s Campaign will travel through some of the poorest counties in the Mississippi River Delta to reveal the plight of poverty and how conditions have worsened in the last 50 years. Testimonies from residents, historians, and civil rights activists will show the poverty crisis and the critical state of the Delta from over 50 years ago until now.

In California, the Poor People’s Campaign will organize a 12-day tour beginning on the Yurok Reservation in Northern California near the Oregon border to highlight issues facing indigenous communities. In Fresno County, the poorest county in California and the second poorest city in the U.S., the campaign will convene a statewide Poor People’s Hearing to spotlight the economic apartheid in one of the highest agricultural producing regions. The tour will then make its way to San Diego toward the border, shining a light on the current immigration and humanitarian crisis there. Along the way, stops will include some of the most impoverished communities in California, hearing testimony and bearing witness to the need for housing, food, jobs and dignity.

In Utah, the Poor People’s Campaign will visit San Juan County, home to the state’s highest poverty rate and the nation’s last uranium mill. The tour will feature Ute and Diné people who recently elected the county’s first indigenous-majority commission.

The campaign has found that the president’s $8 billion border wall budget could fund critical social safety net programs. Instead of directing $8 billion of funding toward the border wall, the government could provide 3.36 million children or 2.25 million adults with low-income health care for one year; fund 897,800 Head Start slots for children for one year; or power 9 million homes with wind energy for one year.

“We have real socio-political and moral emergencies—they are the ongoing realities of systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy/militarism, and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism,” said the Rev. Barber. “These are not left or right, but moral issues that must be addressed. Democrats haven’t done enough to make things better, and Republicans do too much to make things worse.”

The tours are expected to hit 28 states or more. In addition to raising awareness of the true emergencies facing the nation’s poor, the nationwide tour kicks off an organizing effort aimed at registering poor and impacted people, clergy, and activists for a June Poor People’s Moral Action Congress in Washington, D.C.

States currently scheduled include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.