Last spring local groups Mainers for Accountable leadership and Maine Poor People’s Campaign rallied outside the Department of Homeland Security in protest of family separations at the border. Four individuals were cited for failure to obey a lawful order; Jessica Stewart, Rev. Jodi Hayashida, Matt Bear Fowler, and Cecilia Corey. Today the verdict was given at the Federal Court in Portland. Two of the defendants in the case gave words and sang songs with community members before their appearance in court. Maine Poor Peoples Campaign put out the action call for a rally and march today in Monument Square. Roughly 25 people attended, listening to the speakers before singing songs together and marching through town. Full video footage of the speakers and march can be found at the top of the article. Other groups represented today were representatives of Jewish Activists of Maine, Presente, and Sunrise Movement. Many folks from the rally joined the defendants in the courtroom to show support and solidarity. The defendants ultimately received 25 hours of community service.
The Poor People’s Campaign is a national movement started by Rev. Barber and Rev. Theoharris to tackle many civil rights issues by continuing the work of historic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. The campaign has been traveling around the country inspiring communities to rise up and participate in the mass march being held on June 20, 2020, in Washington D.C. One of the group’s principles is “we must do M.O.R.E.” (Mobilize, Organize, Register, Educate). As such, Maine’s chapter has been very active recently; holding public meetings and canvassing throughout the state. Portland residents who attended last weekend’s women’s march heard a speaker from the Poor People’s Campaign too. On its website, the movement describes the planned event for June as “a generationally transformative gathering to demonstrate the collective power of poor and low-wealth people”.
The group’s slogan “fight poverty not the poor” could be seen on banners, clothing, and patches of those in attendance today. Since their march in Portland on October 10th many activists have connected on local issues creating new partnerships inspired by the call for morality. The group held a march with several hundred people from Lincoln Park to the nearby church where everyone sang songs and attended a moving presentation featuring several speakers. The event in October connected many people who may otherwise have not met. Social change can be a long process and having a group advocating for love and compassion is vital. I know many folks appreciate the work being done by this group and their uplifting message of hope. I’ve recently attended several similar solidarity rallies and seen the uplifting effect this type of support can have on activists facing criminal charges for the work they do. Portland is lucky to have groups organizing this way, and I for one hope they continue to do so.