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Activism, Uncensored: 71 Arrested in "Build Back Better" Demonstrations
The Poor People's Campaign returns to Washington, but can't get near Joe Manchin's office
“Liz and I talk about it all the time,” said Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, referring to his co-chair Liz Theoharis. “They want you to fight for voting rights over here [he pointed right] and fight for living wages over there [he pointed left]. That’s the Washington Two-Step. It’s a way of siloing issues so they can divide the fight.”
The Poor People’s Campaign traces back to Martin Luther King’s 1967 plan for a march of poor people to D.C. to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, and a fair minimum wage. This was after his famous Riverside Church speech in Harlem, around the time he was altering his focus to opposition to the Vietnam War and economic inequality. In other words, after King started to lose the backing of more mainstream Democrats by leaving his “lane” to become more of a peace activist.
The new incarnation of the Poor People’s Campaign, led by Barber, insists it’s not “left or right, Democrat or Republican,” but a “moral fusion movement” that advocates for social spending while opposing things like defense spending. In the extant case they’re pushing for the passage of the “Build Back Better” plan and training their ire on Senator Joe Manchin, whom they see as the impediment. But my guess is the “Washington Two-Step” would work just as well without Manchin.
I think the Biden administration got what it wanted — a record $768 billion defense bill, a stalled social package, and folks like Reverend Barber doing the president a favor by generating video of anti-poverty activists getting themselves arrested marching under the banner of his slogan. But, who knows? Maybe between now and the “Low-wage workers’ assembly” demonstration planned for next June 18th, protests like this will apply the desired pressure.
In any case, Ford Fischer and TK partners News2Share did here what they always do, getting great video of the chronology of Barber’s demonstration, his negotiation with Capitol police, and the arrest of 71 activists, while also showing how a certain type of once-common protest has been shut down by new Covid-era rules that prevent people from coming into legislative office buildings without invitation. Take a look and see what you think; as always, comments welcome.