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Poor People’s Campaign Launches In Ohio, With Plans For Civil Disobedience

Columbus Unitarian Church Rev. Marian Stewart speaks during a press conference at the Ohio State House.
Jo Ingles
Ohio Public Radio
Columbus Unitarian Church Rev. Marian Stewart speaks during a press conference at the Ohio State House.

Activists for low-income Ohioans say they are stepping up lobbying and protesting for change. It is one of 30 campaigns being waged throughout the country.

Activists involved in what’s being called “The Poor People’s Campaign” say they are following civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s example. They say they’ll lobby lawmakers and engage in non-violent civil disobedience to end systemic racism, poverty, environmental problems and overspending on war.

“It is not O.K. to let our children go without. It is not O.K. to let homelessness be the answer. We must meditate and pray, we must act, and we must persevere,” said Rev. Marian Stewart, a Unitarian church leader in Columbus.

An original "Poor People's Campaign" was planned by King for 1968 in Washington, D.C., with the intention of pushing for anti-poverty legislation. King was assassinated before the event, but it went on without him, led by Coretta Scott King and a number of prominent black ministers. About 50,000 people marched in the campaign.

The current campaign was launched last year by Rev. William Barber II, the former head of the North Carolina NAACP, and intended as a "national moral revival."

The group delivered letters to politicians highlighting voter suppression laws passed in Ohio and elsewhere. The activists say they’ll risk arrest beginning on Mother’s Day if their agenda isn’t adopted.

An earlier version of this story quoted Marian Stewart as saying it was ok to let homeless be the answer.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.