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Third Week of Protests Challenge War Economy, Gun Violence at Illinois Capitol
From a news release
2018-05-29

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SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS — For the third consecutive week, poor people, clergy and advocates will return to the Illinois statehouse, as their historic reignition of the Poor People's Campaign turns the focus of its protests to one of the 1968 movement's main themes: militarism.

Tuesday's protest comes days after President Trump bragged to North Korea about the United States' "massive and powerful" nuclear capabilities and will highlight how our government prioritizes the war economy over programs to eradicate poverty and help veterans. Participants in Tuesday's nonviolent direct action are expected to carry signs that read, "Money for Veterans, not for War," and "Build Schools, Not Walls."

They'll call for a reallocation of budgetary dollars to veterans, healthcare, schools, public housing and other social programs in need of funding, among other demands. Under the current federal budget, 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending and only 15 cents is spent on anti-poverty programs. Tuesday's protests will highlight how this disproportionate allocation of resources benefits military contractors that profit from war at the expense of our troops.

In 2015, the Department of Defense budgeted more money on federal contracts, $274 billion, than all other federal agencies combined. In 2016, CEOs of the top five military contractors earned on average $19.2 million each — more than 90 times the $214,000 earned by a U.S. general with 20 years of experience and 640 times the $30,000 earned by Army privates in combat.

In his landmark speech on militarism at Riverside Church in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the leaders of the original Poor People's Campaign said: "If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

The action in Illinois is one of three dozen nationwide, including a major protest planned at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. that will feature Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival co-chair, the Rev. Liz Theoharis. Her campaign co-chair, the Rev. William Barber II, will join protesters in Raleigh, NC, where he started the Moral Mondays Movement.

With 101 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2018, activists will also draw the connection between the war economy and the mass proliferation of guns on our streets. They will demand a ban on assault rifles and a ban on the easy access to firearms. And they'll call for the demilitarization of our borders, including an end to calls to build a war on the U.S.-Mexico Border. They'll also call for an immigration system that, instead of criminalizing people for trying to raise their families, prioritizes family reunification, keeps families together and allows us all to build thriving communities in the country we call home.

WHO: Participants in Illinois Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival {Illinois Veterans, affected communities, youth and their strongest allies}

WHAT: Protest at Illinois statehouse demanding immediate action to challenge the war economy, gun violence

WHERE: Illinois State Capitol, 301 S 2nd Street, Springfield, IL

WHEN: Monday, May 28 at 2PM

BACKGROUND:

The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is co-organized by Repairers of the Breach, a social justice organization founded by the Rev. Barber; the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary; and hundreds of local and national grassroots groups across the country.

On May 14, campaign co-chairs the Revs. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis were among hundreds arrested nationwide in the most expansive wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history, kicking off a six-week season of direct action demanding new programs to fight systemic poverty and racism, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy. Last week, they were arrested again, alongside the Rev. Jesse Jackson after staging a pray-in in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds more were arrested at capitols nationwide, including in Illinois.

The protests from coast to coast are reigniting the Poor People's Campaign, the 1968 movement started by Dr. King and so many others to challenge racism, poverty and militarism. The Campaign is expected to be a multi-year effort, but over the first 40 days, poor and disenfranchised people, moral leaders and advocates are engaging in nonviolent direct action, including by mobilizing voters, knocking on tens of thousands of doors, and holding teach-ins, among other activities, as a moral fusion movement comprised of people of all races and religions takes off.

For the past two years, leaders of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival have carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation, meeting with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas to Marks, Mississippi to South Charleston, West Virginia. Led by the Revs. Barber and Theoharis, the campaign has gathered testimonies from hundreds of poor people and listened to their demands for a better society.

A Poor People's Campaign Moral Agenda, announced last month, was drawn from this listening tour, while an audit of America conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, showed that, in many ways, we are worse off than we were in 1968.

The Moral Agenda, which is guiding the 40 days of actions, calls for major changes to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative, including repeal of the 2017 federal tax law, implementation of federal and state living wage laws, universal single-payer health care, and clean water for all.


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