Poor People’s Campaign to march, rally in D.C. on Saturday

Mark Pringle feels the pressure, as a fourth-generation farmer in rural Kansas, to keep his family farm running, even as it’s become increasingly difficult.

He’s dealt with extreme weather, intensified by human-caused climate change; a lack of affordable and accessible mental and physical health care; and a rising cost of living.

So Pringle is traveling to the nation’s capital to march alongside the thousands of people expected to rally Saturday demanding that leaders center the needs of the country’s most vulnerable people, enacting legislation that supports the millions who have been forced into poverty or earning low wages.

“We’re people living in rural areas, and it’s just so important that we tie it all together,” Pringle, 63, said. “This has been going on too long, more and more people being left behind in this country. And it’s always struck us as wrong.”

The event, called the Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington, will begin with a Shabbat service at 8:45 a.m. at Freedom Plaza, before participants march toward 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the rally. 

Organizers estimate the crowd will include anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 people, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service. There will be parking restrictions and street closures.

The demonstration is organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a resurgence of the movement organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before his death in 1968.

Rev. William J. Barber II, a North Carolina preacher who is co-chair of the campaign, said leaders have found inspiration in studying the activism of King and other leaders in the civil rights movement. Saturday’s event will precede Juneteenth, a day that has come to symbolize the end of slavery in the United States.

This is an urgent moment, Barber said, in which poor and low-income people are disproportionately impacted in areas such as health care, housing, gun violence, abortion rights, labor conditions, white supremacy and racism, immigration, the climate crisis and voting restrictions. 

Inflation is also rising at its fastest pace in four decades, leaving no respite for people who were already struggling to buy groceries, pay for gas or make rent.

Barber said the movement aims to bring together people across race, ethnicity, religion and region, as King’s work did, to “shift the moral narrative” and mobilize a voting bloc of poor people who can influence policy everywhere from their hometowns to the U.S. Capitol and White House. The demonstration Saturday, he said, will be an example of the power of poor and low-income people.