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Poor People's Campaign Revival Kicks Off in Salem

The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival recalls the campaign Martin Luther King, Jr. started in 1968. (Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress)
The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival recalls the campaign Martin Luther King, Jr. started in 1968. (Warren K. Leffler/Library of Congress)
May 14, 2018

SALEM, Ore. — A movement Martin Luther King, Jr., started 50 years ago near the end of his life is getting a revival today. The Poor People's Campaign is kicking off 40 days of action in 40 states, including Oregon's capital.

The national campaign brings together faith leaders, community leaders and low-wage workers to address four core issues: systemic racism, poverty, militarism and ecological destruction. Rev. Lynn Smouse Lopez of Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland said she's part of this movement because members of her congregation face these issues every day.

She said the point of the campaign is to re-frame the moral narrative in this country.

"It's OK to have homeless people camping out, it's OK to have children living out of cars or families couch surfing because there's no homes, there's not enough,” Lopez said. “Those things are not morally OK, and yet we have turned a blind eye to them in this country and in this state."

The campaign will gather at the Capitol, have a march and then present demands and perform direct action protests around Salem. More than 530,000 Oregonians were living below the poverty line in 2016 - including nearly 140,000 children - according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In December, the campaign released a report measuring how the country is doing on the four core issues it's most concerned about compared with when the campaign launched a half century ago. It found that in many respects, the nation is worse off than it was in 1968.

Lopez said this movement means to hold federal, state and local leaders accountable for this fact ...

"... and to call on corporate greed and name it for what it is,” she said, “and call out the issues that are really swamping our society and call out what are the causes, what are the roots and how do we change that?"

Lopez said the Oregon coalition of leaders will be back in Salem on May 21 for the start of the state's special session to oppose corporate tax cuts. The finale for the campaign nationwide is June 18.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR