SC protesters demand change during poor people’s rally

May 14, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Protesters vowing to reignite the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to empower poor people rallied Monday on South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds, demanding changes regarding poverty and voter suppression.

Police made 16 arrests.

Nearly 100 people gathered on the Statehouse’s north lawn for The Poor People’s Campaign, one of more than 30 rallies organized nationwide. Protesters called for 40 days of non-violent action or “moral revival” to refocus the national conversation around what they call fundamental issues concerning racism, poverty and what organizers called America’s distorted national morality.

“We want to reignite a grassroots effort across racial lines to force federal and state action to address fundamental issues and causes of inequality,” said Kerry Taylor, one of the local event coordinators. “What we’re talking about is on a level of values, not left or right, not partisan.”

Taylor said organizers want to start a conversation about public policies and basic human values.

Following the peaceful protest, demonstrators walked along sidewalks adjacent to the Statehouse while others blocked a roadway. Columbia police arrested 16 people who stood in the middle of the street, saying they were charged with being pedestrians unlawfully in the roadway.

Minister Jeff Liebmann of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia was one of those arrested, saying he was prepared to be handcuffed for the cause.

“The poor people of the country can unite and they’re in such numbers that if they eventually march to Washington, legislators will listen,” Liebmann said. He added that organizers were in contact with officers prior to the event to ensure peace was maintained.

Christine Riccio of Charleston, who four years ago was living in a tent with two other adults and two dogs, also stood in the middle of the street and said the only way there will be a change is if President Donald Trump is out of office.

“We’re the backbones of this country, not them,” Riccio said. “If everybody in this country from the little jobs on up, if everybody stopped working for a week, we’d shut this country down, not Trump.”

The event launched six weeks of a non-violent call to action by organizers that will end with mobilization in Washington, D.C.

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