Residents heading to Washington D.C. for Poor People's Campaign march and holding local rally – The Recorder

Conway resident Mary McClintock, pictured in her peace apron on the Greenfield Common, is organizing a local rally coinciding with the Poor People’s Campaign march in Washington D.C. on Saturday. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ
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GREENFIELD — Residents of Franklin County are joining in a nationwide movement aimed at addressing the intersection of racism, poverty and militarism.
“Our message is basically that all of those issues are … intertwined and they affect everybody,” said Kate Scarborough, a member of the coordinating committee with the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign who is organizing a bus trip with more than a dozen local residents to Washington D.C. for the Poor People’s Campaign march on Saturday. “If we’re only thinking about one group and one issue, we’re not going to get to the heart of the problem.”
In recent years, the message of the Poor People’s Campaign — which originated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 — has grown to also focus on the impact of ecological devastation and religious nationalism.
Locally, residents are invited to convene on the Greenfield Common from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday to stand in solidarity with the march happening in Washington D.C.
“We’re thrilled lots of people are going to D.C., but recognizing not everyone can, it’s great to have a local event in solidarity that folks can be part of,” said Conway resident Mary McClintock, who is helping to coordinate the effort. “The peace vigil really recognizes all of the interconnection between war and militarism and systemic racism and poverty and all that is going on in the world.”
Scarborough noted that, in terms of how budgets are created, if more money is spent on a militarized police force, for example, less money is available for housing, health care or education.
“We talk about re-prioritizing our resources for a peace economy, rather than a war economy,” Scarborough said.
She said the Washington D.C. march is a means for “raising our voices as one” with people from across the country.
“We’ve got buses coming from all across the country,” she said. “We’re here to make a statement, to say we won’t be silenced anymore, to say poverty is a serious issue in this world, and the number of people experiencing it is enormous.”
While it may be a change that’s difficult to make, Scarborough said it’s important to recognize the impact and power that low-income people can have.
“We’re there to display all of that power,” she said.
She said marchers will also be there to “bear witness” to those who share their stories.
“There will be many impacted people sharing their stories,” Scarborough said. “We’re bearing witness to the people who have been most impacted.”
Among those making the journey south will be Greenfield resident Paki Wieland, who was part of the first Poor People’s Campaign march 54 years ago.
“I had been working in West Virginia, and we were asked to organize people … to be part of this,” she recalled. “The big push then was to have this broad umbrella with poor people from all walks of life.”
King and Sen. Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated earlier that year.
“We had a big march to the Pentagon,” Wieland continued. “I think the tragedy was Dr. Martin Luther King had this amazing vision and I think his cohort, his followers … were so devastated by the loss of his life that they didn’t really know what to do. It was not very successful.”
Still, the efforts continued, she said.
“The idea of calling out racism, militarism and poverty — those were the triplets of evil,” Wieland said.
McClintock said the idea of demonstrating in Greenfield is to amplify the message of those who are traveling to Washington D.C.
“There will be people from all over the country in D.C., but there will be people all over the country doing this kind of thing in solidarity,” she said. “I’ll be there on Saturday with my apron that says ‘peace is cheaper.’ That resonates with a lot of people. All of us federal taxpayers are throwing a huge amount of money into war and military. We could be using that to house people and feed people, and have good health care and education.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne
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