On May 21, 16 Kentuckians occupied the state capitol overnight as an act of civil disobedience. We were there for the second week of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC), 40 days of moral action focused on addressing poverty, systemic racism, the war economy and ecological devastation.
Though we were not arrested, we risked arrest by, among other things, covering the statue of Jefferson Davis in the capitol rotunda and refusing to leave the building when it closed. We hoped our actions would bring attention to the dire circumstances facing our nation and our state.
In 2016 Kentucky was ranked 47th in overall poverty (people living below the poverty line — –$24,430 for a family of four). Our state ranked 47th for child poverty, with 24.5% of children living below the poverty line in 2016. Our state has contributed $47 billion to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond since 2001, an amount that could have covered the cost of Medicaid for 573,000 adults for the past 17 years or placed every child in Kentucky in a Head Start early education childhood education program.
Why did we risk arrest? During our night together we shared our reasons. Several people highlighted the connections between racial justice, economic justice, immigrant justice, and their desire to use their power and privilege to change the systems that hurt some and benefit others. Some were educators and former educators who wanted to live more fully into the values they’d been teaching their students. Some had been involved in the Civil Rights movement and the original Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago. Everyone, whether coming from a religious or secular perspective, affirmed a love for “the least of these” (Mt. 25:40).
I am a Catholic, a deep believer in the Gospel mandate to love my neighbor, and, as a result, I am also a practitioner and teacher of nonviolence. I look to the example of Jesus as a model of nonviolence. One reason I choose to join the Poor People’s Campaign is because of its clear commitment to nonviolence.
PPC Factsheets highlight portions of the campaign’s moral agenda which “includes demands on the federal and state governments to:
n Ensure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of urgent social needs, including decent and affordable housing, quality education and health care, safe and affordable water, and job creation.
n Protect voting rights and prohibit racist gerrymandering, hiring, policing, and sentencing policies that exacerbate inequalities for black and brown people.
n End military aggression, ban the proliferation of guns, and demilitarize our communities on the border and the interior.
n Ensure the right to clean water, air, and a healthy environment and increased public investment in jobs programs to transition to a green economy.”
Cory Lockhart is a member of St. William Church.