NEOCH Interns Take Action with Poor People Campaign's In Ohio and DC

Over the last two weeks, several NEOCH interns had the opportunity to take part in the Poor People's Campaign nationwide movement in Columbus and in Washington, D.C. NEOCH Interns Asha Ravichandran and Gillian Prater-Lee reflected on the experiences:

6/23 DC Rally

6/23 DC Rally

The Poor People's Campaign, a national nonviolent activism movement, professes to do the unheard of today: create an intersectional and comprehensive class-based social and political movement to fundamentally reform the power structures that control our lives. This campaign was inspired by a 1968 movement of the same name  led by Martin Luther King Jr. Rev. Dr. King envisioned a “new and unsettling force” that would address far reaching social, economic, and political inequities. Today, activists across the country have commemorated Dr. King’s legacy by reviving his movement. The campaign is unique within the current wave of post-Trump election activism because it clearly seeks to address how the capitalist system oppresses the poor.  Instead of taking socioeconomic status as simply one of many intersectional identities, the Poor People's Campaign centers the role of capitalist exploitation of the poor and working classes and then layers on other oppressive forces. The campaign also seeks to redefine our country’s distorted moral framework. In a society plagued daily with ethical atrocities, the Poor People’s Campaign’s commitment to morality throughout its advocacy for the poor is a refreshing and necessary addition to today’s political climate.

_________

JUNE 18TH COLUMBUS RALLY NOTES ON THE GROUND, by Asha Ravichandran:

On Monday, June 18, two other NEOCH staff and I joined nearly fifty advocates from across the state to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign actions at the Ohio Statehouse. This was the group’s final protest rally in Ohio, which capped off a six-week campaign devoted to standing up for the rights of the poor in this state and across the country. Each week of the campaign focused on a specific theme; this week’s was “A New and Unsettling Force: Confronting the Distorted Moral Narrative.”

Learning about the campaign’s mission reaffirmed my commitment to the work I do at NEOCH. While we at NEOCH are focused on ending the cycle of homelessness, we recognize that this is but one component of the epidemic of poverty that plagues our communities, especially in today’s political climate. I particularly appreciate the movement’s aim to redefine our country’s “distorted moral narrative.” Despite the intensely bipartisan nature of today’s politics, it’s important to realize that the issues the Poor People’s Campaign addresses transcend party lines: as the campaign puts it, targeting systemic inequalities is not a question of right vs. left; rather, it’s a question of right vs. wrong.

Monday’s rally began with a few speeches next to the William McKinley Monument across from the Statehouse. One speaker, a full-time employee of Ohio State, noted that she is forced to live paycheck to paycheck—in short, one emergency expense away from a financial crisis. Others discussed the unconscionable ways our government devastates families by separating children from their parents. Leaders of the protest then invited us to write the names of those we had lost due to government- and police-related violence on a banner painted to resemble a brick wall. Our next action was a “Jericho March” around the Statehouse. The approach was inspired by the story of Joshua and his men marching around Jericho seven times, causing the city’s walls to tumble down. During Monday’s march, we walked twice around the Statehouse, carrying the long banner. The first walk was silent, accompanied only by the slow beating of drums. The second time, however, protestors broke into rousing songs and chants, such as “O-H-I-O, Poverty Has Got to Go!” and “Fight Poverty, Not the Poor!” After our march, we watched as six of us who had planned to be arrested blocked State Street. As they were escorted into police vehicles, our chants grew louder, for their arrests represented a distinct message: that we will no longer tolerate the marginalization of the poor in this country.

It was exhilarating to be part of such a passionate movement that advocated for the rights of the dispossessed in our community. The Poor People’s Campaign does not end here; they have planned a mass rally in Washington, D.C  this Saturday, June 23rd. These rallies represent only the beginning of the campaign’s attempt to create a better, more moral society. We at NEOCH hope that their efforts will help to tear down the walls of injustice and lift up the dispossessed.

Pictures from Ohio Statehouse:

Poor People's Campaign Wall Banner.jpg
Poor People's Campaign sign.jpg
Poor People's Campaign Speeches.jpg

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JUNE 23RD WASHINGTON DC NOTES ON THE GROUND, by Gillian Prater-Lee:

https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/history/

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC with a group of Cleveland poor people and activists to participate in the final day of 40 days of direct moral action on places of power.  Our two vans left Cleveland at 2:00AM to head to DC. Once there, we joined scores of people in the national mall to hear speakers of all identities (though predominantly poor activists) discuss poverty and inequality, systematic racism, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism.  We then marched on the Capitol building while crying chants like "No justice- no peace," "From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go," and "Whose streets? Our Streets!" and iconic, ageless songs that were likely sung at the original Poor People's Campaign like "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Free at Last."

Though the entire day was a moving and deeply inspiring experience, certain elements particularly affected me.  One of which was a conversation with a New York City woman wearing a shirt from a demonstration I attended in Atlanta a few years ago who had driven down to DC from NYC.  It just gave me hope to see other people who have continued to fight for these issues over the years who I have been able to connect with at different points in my life. A woman from Washington state was reduced to tears onstage about how honored she was to be involved in the campaign: she felt that it gave her a chance to change systems that had made her life awful for so long (She said she was the white trash that society threw out but forgot to burn).  Organized labor was represented by local union organizers that shared their lived experiences on the front lines of fighting for fair pay and treatment in the workforce. A group of indigenous people performed a spiritual song that blessed the movement in a beautiful and slightly haunting way, complete with drums, dancing, and singing. A group of rappers and gospel singers kept the crowd energized between speakers while sharing tunes calling for the people to rise up for social justice.  A young African American family stood next to me for much of the three plus hours of speakers, attempting to keep their two children calm as they listened and celebrated the movement. I discussed the policing of activism with a similarly minded protester while marching...

I am still processing all of these and more moments, but this weekend gave me hope that our deeply flawed capitalist society can be forced to change so that all people can be given a life where they can fully recognize their aspirations, hopes, and dreams.  I am thankful for all the beautiful people that shared their stories and energy over the course of the day.

The demands of the Poor People's Campaign align both with my personal views on what a socially just world looks like, and with NEOCH's work to organize with, empower, and educate homeless, poor, and disenfranchised people.  The campaign inspired me to continue my work at NEOCH with a renewed belief that systematic change is possible, and that there are others across the country fighting the same fight. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this activism, and look forward to continue to work with the Poor People's Campaign

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RNC in Cleveland: One Year Out

 

Last summer in Cleveland was filled with Republicans electing the future President of the United States.  NEOCH was busy organizing, protesting and keeping homeless people safe.  We posted a few images from last year on the front of our website and those will be available on our photo galleries page. We reflected on the RNC last July and you can read that by clicking on the blue text.

We started out joining a lawsuit with the ACLU and both pro Trump and anti Trump protestors against the City of Cleveland.  Our interest was the overly broad enforcement "event area," and whether all these out of town police could disrupt homeless encampments.  This would have allowed law enforcement to search, sieze and bar movement from many areas where homeless people sleep especially across the river.  We won in court and the City had to reduce the event zone.  NEOCH staff provided a one page sheet on how to assist homeless people to the two thousand police who came to town.

We worked to keep homeless people safe with transportation from the East Side to the drop in centers on the West Side.  NEOCH staff did some voter registration activities on the West Side of Cleveland so they did not have to cross the river during the RNC.  We had to figure out where homeless people could go during the day since the Cosgrove Center drop in Center was closed for the week. There was much media about homelessness and the convention both nationally and locally.

NEOCH staff were involved in the protest on the Monday of the RNC that Organize Ohio put together.   We made signs to End Poverty.  We marched.  We listened to speeches asking for Republican leaders to think about the affordable housing crisis, health care for all, increasing income, and stabilizing disability assistance in America.   It was a hot day and a long walk from Lutheran Metro Ministry down to just outside of the "event zone" at Chester Commons.  There were some fantastic speeches like the mom worried about the incendiary language during the campaign about immigrants. There were environmentalists who were concerned about global warming.  There were Black Lives Matter activists worried about unaccountable police. And there were activists asking for a $15 minimum wage and universal access to healthcare in the United States.

Overall, the best of Cleveland was shown to the United States last summer.  We could protest peacefully.  There were very few arrests during the week.  The Police Chief was out among the people talking, keeping the peace and wearing shorts and not riot gear.  Homeless people were not harrassed and could stand with the other pedestrians on the Lorain Carnegie Bridge in peaceful prayer.  There were no arrests or sweeps of homeless people as happened in previous high profile events in the United States.  It was a huge disruption for the one week and it was difficult getting across the river, but it was also quite a spectcle to watch.  I saw people walking downtown that I have never seen before in our fair city.  There were suburban folks from Nebraska who had never seen so much concrete.  There were cowboy hat and boot wearing young men from Montana who had not seen this many minority citizens in the same location. 

Very few of the 20,000 Republican delegates and guests had thought much about homelessness and we did all that we could to get homeless people into the news last summer.  I was skeptical about bringing a party that has a history of hostility toward those living in poverty to a majority Democratic city, but it worked.  There were precincts in the City of Cleveland in 2012 that not one person in that precinct voted for the Republican candidate for President.  I was worried that there would be hostility between the two groups, but Clevelanders were extremely welcoming and hospitable to people who largely see the world differently from most residents of Cleveland.  The Republican Convention of 2016 benefitted the City of Cleveland, and I hope that other cities will look at our ability to host a secure event without harming the residents (including homeless people) in the process and use that as an example. 

Brian Davis

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Community Organizer Reflects on March to End Poverty

March to End Poverty

Held in Cleveland on July 18, 2016

 In the words of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, “a change is gonna come!'  America has a long history of economic and social injustice.  We’ve come a long way as a people by overcoming substantial hardships, but we have a long way to go.  The struggles of the past made the changes that have been made to this day possible.

 Today, we have a broader view of what is going on around us and better tools at our disposal in terms of technology.  Everything that was put in place in the past is to help us to move forward, yet we seem to be going backwards.  Why is that?  Because we need the government to work with us as citizens, not working against us and destroying everything that was put in place.  An example is not funding vital programs such as women's shelter or renovating abandoned buildings in Cleveland.  We do know, one way or another, a change is going to come!  We would like for it to be a positive one, and not a fight against a government that is supposed to protect.  We want to put forward solutions that are in the best interest of our nation as a whole and not one group over the others.

The Call for a March to End Poverty was in response to Cleveland hosting the Republican National Convention (RNC) for four days.  It addressed a lot of the problems that we still need to overcome as a nation. The first one being the fact that “Northeast Ohio is one of the most segregated regions in the country, while its largest city, Cleveland, is one of the poorest.” Cleveland won the bid to host a celebration, according to organizers on the End Poverty website, “for a political party that has distinguished itself over the past generation by rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights and anti-poverty movements, and has done everything in its power to de-fund and disempower residents of Cleveland."  A lot of the residents that I spoke to in Cleveland were very upset about the convention being hosted here because they feel the money could have been put to better use by spending it to address the poverty and hunger issues in Cleveland.  Many wanted that money to go to address homelessness in Cleveland.  I agree and think that there should have been some long standing outcomes from the RNC like a new shelter or new affordable housing built that would improve the City after the delegates go home.  Many I talked to feel that all the abandoned buildings in the city could have been renovated and the numerous potholes could have been filled in so that we are left with something we can use.  All in all, they feel that money could have been used to address the problems we have in the city at the same time we are raising millions of dollars to host a party.

Organize Ohio! is the organization that enforced the call to End Poverty Now! with a march on the east side of Cleveland.  The priority issues that they feel need to be reformed to help to alleviate poverty are:

  • human rights,
  • economic justice,
  • racial justice,
  • criminal justice
  • and immigrant rights.

Some of the key issues for the march were: “a minimum wage that is a living wage, equal pay for equal work, the right to water for all, the right to affordable and decent, safe housing for all, universal health care that is affordable for all, and an end to mass incarceration of minorities and the poor." These are just a few, but I should also add one of the other key issues they said must be addressed “voting in the United States that is free, fair, and accessible for all Americans. I agree with all of these and that is the reason I marched.

They also acknowledged that “Cleveland is the city that launched the Welfare Rights Movement” and the United States has ignored “Articles 23, 25, and 26 of the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948” which endorses “the right to food, housing, healthcare, education, and living wage jobs”.  The fact that there is a 37% poverty rate and 53% of its children in poverty” proves that these endorsements are not being met.  It also states that “our country has turned its back on the economic human rights that the country committed to uphold”.  It seemed strange since the Republican Party is not really that popular in a city dominated by Democrats. 

In my opinion and many on the organizing committee believed that the March was an attempt to push back against those who believe that the US laws are being used to increase the wealth of a few and holding back the rest of us.  There are many being pushed into poverty and income insecurity because of the fundamental injustice of wealth creation, debt associated with higher education, racism, and the criminal justice system.   So, having the RNC in Cleveland was insulting to a lot of the residents that don’t have access to these rights or being denied these rights.  The March to End Poverty was to address the issues and an attempt to get people to pay attention to poverty and homelessness.

On July 18, 2016, the first day of the RNC, approximately 2,000 activist met at a preplanned rally and marched from East 45th and Superior Ave. to East 12th and Chester Avenue where there was a second rally.  The group was trying to call for a change in our society and shout to the media, other Clevelanders, and the Republican delegates that: “No more complicity with the crime of poverty!  No more building your political career on the backs of the poor!  No more silence from those you have stepped on!  We demand to end poverty now!”

*The quoted material is from the Call for a March to End Poverty documents posted on the front of the website.

by Ramona Turnbull

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Reflection on March to End Poverty

On Monday, July 18, the opening day of the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland, somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 people gathered at East 45th and Superior for a rally and march to "End Poverty Now." The march was put together by Organize Ohio and was joined by a wide variety of groups, from staff at NEOCH to women’s health advocates to revolutionary communists to anarchists. At the rally before the march, people handed out flyers about events happening later in the week and talked to people about their group’s message. Other groups went around offering food and water to those attending.

Women from Codepink (pictured here), a grassroots organization founded to oppose the Iraq War, danced around in head-to-toe pink ball gowns and held satirical signs such as “Minimum Wage: $0” and “Tax the Poor”. Another woman from NARAL Pro-Choice America walked around on stilts for the entirety of the rally and the march! On the rally stage, several activists from around the country spoke and inspired the crowd, and there were also performers singing songs of struggle and social justice. Especially exciting was a performance by Prophets of Rage, a band made up of Rage Against the Machine's bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk, with Public Enemy's Chuck D and DJ Lord and Cypress Hill's B-Real. They gave a high-energy performance that pumped up the crowd and got us ready to march.  There were also women facing deportation and those struggling with poverty in America.

After the performance we took to the streets, heading downtown towards the convention under the hot 85-degree sun. As we walked, most of us held signs against poverty, racism, sexism, and of course Trump – some especially memorable ones were “Trump Hates Kittens”, “Lizard People for Trump”, and “Deport Trump’s Hate & His Wife”. There were also signs opposing both major political parties.  Many groups led chants, the Fight for 15 group seeking an increase in the minimum wage chanting “What do we want? 15! If we don’t get it? Shut it down!” Also heard were the familiar cries of “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter.” A few times during the march it seemed that different groups were competing with each other in their chants – the Fight for 15ers shouting over the communists, the communists shouting over the socialists, etc.

Each time things smoothed over peacefully, and in general the tension within the march itself was minimal. Although there were disparate political views represented, we were all bound together by our shared belief in the necessity of ending poverty. And despite the fact that a group of open-carrying West Ohio Minutemen were marching only blocks away, we luckily avoided running into any such groups. Throughout the whole route we were followed by and surrounded on both sides by police officers on bikes. Thankfully there were no issues between officers and protestors, and everything remained peaceful. By the time we reached Chester Commons, most of us were sweaty, sunburnt and exhausted. A few people stayed around to speak to reporters and give a few more chants, but most of the group dispersed.

Ultimately, I think that the march was a success and I am encouraged by the media coverage that I’ve seen. Showing people that there is an alternative narrative to many of the public discussions on poverty is important, and the more people who can hear the message that there are solutions to poverty the better. I believe we are all extremely relieved that everything remained peaceful, especially considering the tension that our country is currently experiencing. Hopefully we can continue to push the message of ending poverty onto both the Republican and Democratic parties in a peaceful way moving forward.

by Megan Shanklin

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End Poverty Demonstration

END POVERTY NOW!

 

MARCH FOR ECONOMIC And HOUSING JUSTICE

 

    

 Join our National Action on

July 18, 2016

When: July 18th - Rally @ 2P

March Kick-off @ 3PM

Where: East 45th, just north of Superior Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44103

For more information:

Call: 216.651.2606

Email: endpovertynow2016@gmail.com    

Facebook: End Poverty Now 2016

Twitter:  End Poverty Now 2016    

Website: End Poverty Now 2016

T-shirts available for sale or free to homeless people. 

We Support and Urge Others to Walk for Justice

Saturday, July 9th, thousands of Northeast Ohioans will walk peacefully through Downtown Cleveland to call for a compassionate reform of our country's immigration policies.

The Walk comes just 8 days before Cleveland hosts the Republic National Convention, is an important national event where immigration policy and our country's treatment of people who migrate will be a hot topic of discussion.

WALK FOR JUSTICE
Saturday, July 9, 2016
10 AM - Start at "Free Stamp" in Willard Park (E. 9th & Lakeside)
Walk route is 1.5 miles and ends at the Justice Center near Tower City
Website: walk4justicecle.net | Facebook Event | Walk Map

For more than ten years, each one of you has lent your voice in a very passionate call for humane comprehensive immigration reform.   I am so excited that our presence here in Northeast Ohio makes it possible for us to come together once again in this important public action which says:  Reform ImmigrationNow!

I will be there with many of our immigrant brothers and sisters. There will also be many faith leaders participating, including Bishop Richard Lennon, civic leaders, people from the business community and families! Please plan to be there with us!

Even if you can't make it, I am hopeful you might be able to share news about the event with friends, family, co-workers, students, etc. etc. etc.

T-Shirts will be available to the first 2,000 walkers!

From Deb Kline of Jobs with Justice

ACLU Settles Lawsuit with City of Cleveland Over RNC

ACLU representing NEOCH, Organize Ohio and Citizen's for Trump sued the City of Cleveland two weeks ago.  In a whirlwind case before Federal District Court Judge James Gwin.  The ACLU and NEOCH won in the first hearing on this issue, and the City of Cleveland immediately filed an appeal.  There were hours of negotiations last Thursday and then back and forth hammering out a written settlement.  As soon as we get the settlement agreement, we will post it.  Here is some new coverage, both national and local on the issue. 

The PBS Newshour covered the story here. 

  • District Judge Gwin ruled City’s protest regulations unconstitutional, ordered negotiations
  • ACLU argued that City’s Event Zone was too large, and that rules within it were too restrictive; judge agreed
  • ACLU and City came to an agreement Friday, settlement is likely to be finalized Monday
  • Citizens for Trump and Organize Ohio sued due to protest restrictions
  • NEOCH sued because some prohibited items in the Event Zone are needed by homeless who live there

The Cleveland Plain Dealer had some very good coverage of the lawsuit and the settlement here.  They also published a nice editorial about how bad these rules were for protestors and homeless people here.

  • Agreement reached Friday between ACLU and City will result in smaller Event Zone
  • New Zone will exclude west side of Cuyahoga River and public parks
  • The hours of the protest will be longer so that they correspond to when delegates are actually present in Cleveland.
  • Deal includes longer parade route that are closer to the site of the convention. 
  • Event Zone restrictions will not apply to homeless population.
  • "Negotiations are being handled by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is known for his ability to broker settlements," according to the Plain Dealer.

The Toledo Blade had a good summary of the story here and tied the story to the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia over the Democratic convention. 

  • District Judge Gwin ruled Thursday that City’s event zone restrictions violated First Amendment
  • Dismissed lawsuit filed by ACLU on behalf of Citizens for Trump, Organize Ohio and NEOCH and ordered mediation by District Judge Polster on Friday
  • Shortly after settlement announced Friday, ACLU of PA filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Philadelphia regarding restrictions during Democratic National Convention.

The LA Times also gave a summary of the story here and had colorful language about the free speech implications.

  • In court Thursday, ACLU argued that RNC Event Zone was a “black hole for 1st Amendment activities”; City countered that Cleveland’s regulations were less restrictive than other cities
  • District Judge Gwin ruled that “unduly large” security zone was not tailored to security issues
  • Gwin ordered negotiations between the ACLU and the City in order to narrow the restrictions

Here is the coverage from Channel 3 WKYC

Here is the Atlantic magazine coverage is here.

Politico's story focused on how both pro and anti-Trump protests under the City's original plan were going to be in the same are causing issues of possible turmoil.

The American Bar Association Journal talked about the judge questioning how the City could successfully stage a CAVS championship parade for a million, but could not handle a couple thousand protestors.  "However, Gwin questioned the city’s reasoning and asked how the convention protests were different from the more than 1 million people who filled downtown Wednesday for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade and “traveled through streets in what will become the event zone,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported."

by Brian Davis and Megan the 2016 Intern

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