The Poor People’s Campaign Speaks Out Against War and Poverty
Eddie Conway talks to protestors in Annapolis during their third week of civil disobedience and asks about how their movement can inspire working class communities to mobilize against poverty
EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway, coming to you from Annapolis in front of the State House.
This is the third week of the Poor People’s Campaign. And once again, people have marched along the pathway, and they’re now having a rally here. And it’s anticipated there will be some civil disobedience, and perhaps some people going to jail.
REV. ANGELA MARTIN: We demand an end to military aggression and warmongering. We demand a stop to the privatization of the military budget, and any increase in military spending. We demand a strong veterans system that remains public. We demand a ban on assault rifles, and a ban on easy access to firearms. We demand the demilitarization of our communities on the border and the interior. We demand an end to federal programs that send military equipment to local and state communities. We demand that the call to build a wall at the United States and Mexico border be ceased. We demand an immigration system that, instead of criminalizing people for trying to raise their families, prioritize family reunification, keep families together, that allows us all to build thriving communities in the country we call home.
ROB TALLEY: When we took our oath of enlistment, we swore to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Also to obey the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me. If I was still serving today, I would have a problem following 45’s orders. America’s discretionary budget is about [one point] trillion dollars, more than half going toward military spending and the VA. One of the fundamental principles of the Poor People’s Campaign is to transform the war economy into a peace economy that values all humanity. The war economy and militarization is so destructive that taking life and limb is not enough for soldiers. That’s not enough. Now the war machine wants to control your mind by making you believe that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful to the flag, and our veterans. Well, as a Vietnam veteran, I find that appalling.
PAUL PUMPHREY: One of the things I have to say is that I was involved with the first March on Washington, the Poor People’s Campaign that took place in 1968. I helped prefab the housing for Resurrection City. And in fact, I understood back then that our government was wasting our tax dollars on the war in Vietnam while at the same time making the claim they did not have money to address the needs of poor people here, inside the United States. And I felt that Dr. King was very correct in pointing out that, and saying that, in fact, that the war budget economy of the United States is a direct threat to addressing the needs of poor people in this country. In fact, he brought up the point that every year the military budget grew, while the war on poverty budget shrank. And so that is just as true back in 1968 as it is today.
EDDIE CONWAY: Martin Luther King, the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign that galvanized in DC even though it was muddy and wet, right-.
PAUL PUMPHREY: Big time.
EDDIE CONWAY: They came for jobs, bread, food, civil rights, et cetera. Some of them got on buses, some of them walked. You know, you know the story. I don’t have to tell you the story, right, you were there. So, what galvanized them is, was not the war in Vietnam. The war in Vietnam was very important. But what galvanized them was their basic survival needs.
PAUL PUMPHREY: Yes.
EDDIE CONWAY: And this-. I guess what I’m seeing is this message is over their heads. It’s real, and it is the message that they have to learn, and it is the lever on which they will have to press in order to make changes. But what moves them?
PAUL PUMPHREY: I think that’s one of the big weak points right now this group has. This group tends at this stage of the game not to really focus on that part of the community that are most adversely affected by the very policies that they’re complaining about. And I think there is a need for more outreach, more going to those communities. The unfortunate thing is you and I, as we were growing up, we spent most of our time in those communities in the organizations we were involved in. Many of the young people today that takes the leadership in this organization here, I don’t believe are spending that much time in those communities, and feel very uncomfortable in going into those very communities that we used to sell newspapers in, and we used to talk to people, and talk about these issues. I don’t think that the message is bad. I think the fact is that if people are going to hear the message, because you’re not touring. I think the message is on point.
EDDIE CONWAY: It is, it is.
PAUL PUMPHREY: We have to take the message to them. And I’m finding this is a weakness, is that I strongly believe that they should spend much more time doing political education. They’re operating from a perspective of top-down, rather than from bottom-up. And until that happens, we’re going to have a weakness in this movement. This movement really needs to spend more time listening before they even start talking.