On Sunday, the Poor People’s Campaign began its 40-day cycle of mass meetings on Sundays, “direct action” protests on Mondays, and educational “teach-ins” on Tuesdays, resurrecting a late 1960s protest inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. 40 years later. Muslim Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour said the protests were an “act of worship” to Allah.
“This movement is an act of worship. My God is a God of action. I’m gonna tell my Lord that I used every blessing that he gave me to stand up for his creations,” Sarsour declared. As a Muslim, her God is Allah, the God of the Quran, not the God of the Bible.
“This movement is an act of worship. My God is a God of action. I’m gonna tell my Lord that I used every blessing that he gave me to stand up for his creations. “- Linda Sarsour @lsarsour #PoorPeoplesCampaign pic.twitter.com/GKQxm6uW5D
— AFSC (@afsc_org) May 14, 2018
Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the original Poor People’s Campaign, or the Poor People’s March on Washington, which began shortly after his assassination in 1968. After presenting a set of demands to Congress and executive agencies, protesters set up a camp in Washington, D.C., where they stayed for six weeks.
The campaign aimed at alleviating poverty through government programs. King demanded $30 billion for anti-poverty, full employment, guaranteed income, and the annual construction of 500,000 affordable residences.
The new movement, led in part by leftist pastor William Barber, posted a laundry list of demands, from repealing “racist voter suppression laws,” to single-payer health care, to guaranteed full employment and income, to the “equal pay” canard, to the abolition of non-government education and the erasing of all debt (“We demand relief from crushing household, student, and consumer debt. We declare Jubilee”). The movement also demanded the repeal of the 2017 tax reform law that has led to $1,000 bonuses for workers across the country.
While the original protest organized by King focused on Washington, D.C., the 2018 version began with protests in 39 state capitals as well. Over a thousand protesters were arrested, New York magazine reported. The campaign will culminate in Washington, D.C., after the 40 days of protests conclude, with a big event on June 23.
“We understand that in order to change things we have to do the rallies, we have to do organizing, we have to do voter mobilization, we have to engage in civil disobedience,” Barber, who launched North Carolina “Moral Mondays” protests pushing leftist demands, told National Public Radio (NPR).
“People will come together and put their mouths and their bodies on the line to force the nation, the media to have to see and hear the people that are impacted,” Barber declared. His campaign suggested that the official poverty numbers far underestimate the true percentage of Americans who should be considered poor, which the campaign put at 43.5 percent.
The demands articulated by the Poor People’s Campaign called for a spiritual revival rooted in the Bible and the Quran at the same time as the rejection of “an extremist religious and Christian nationalist agenda” supposedly embodied by President Donald Trump and the evangelical Christians who advise him.
Despite vehemently attacking an “extremist religious” agenda, the Poor People’s Campaign presented an extremist big government platform in the name of religion. Demands like “guaranteed annual incomes,” “free tuition at public colleges and universities,” “fully funded public resources and access to mental health professionals and addiction and recovery programs,” and single-payer universal health care would require a complete overhaul of America’s economy at the hands of the federal government.
Government-funded and guaranteed “rights” to things like health services, incomes, and education may sound nice, but they require nothing short of government control of everything. The oppression of Communism in Soviet Russia, Red China, and Khmer Rouge Cambodia reinforced the truth that if the government takes over the entire society, only those with power benefit and the rest will certainly be equal — equally oppressed.
In the past two hundred years, free market capitalism has unleashed an unprecedented era of wealth creation. Even the poor in America today enjoy a lifestyle utterly incomprehensible for the average medieval king. Modern people may have less “power,” but the widely spread benefits of running water, electricity, entertainment, refrigerators and microwaves make life immensely easier and more enjoyable than anyone could have imagined.
In the aggregate, the richest Americans do hold an immense amount of wealth, but even the poorest enjoy a widespread — if very unequal — prosperity. If the government attempts to enforce equality, it will likely strangle the engine of growth that produced this prosperity, just as communist regimes in the 20th century ended up impoverishing and oppressing the citizens who criticized the regime.
Activists like William Barber and Linda Sarsour may want to make things better for all people, but enforcing equality using state violence will likely have the opposite effect.