On Tuesday at 11 a.m. local time, Alabama’s Poor People’s Campaign gathered inside the Church of the Good Shepherd in Montgomery. Ministers, activists and passionate citizens traveled across Alabama to attend the third-week, pre-rally training. This past week addressed the war economy, militarism and the proliferation of gun violence.
The morning began with Rev. Carolyn Foster praying over the organization. Shea Rives reviewed the planned journey, detailing the stops and final logistics.
“We’ve created tombstones showing deaths from gun violence. We are putting a face to the problem,” he said.
At noon, demonstrators and speakers gathered at the top of the Alabama State Capitol steps, where Revs. Foster and Tony Allgood welcomed the crowd to the third week of peaceful protest.
“We are taking our demand for moral revival to our Capitol. We have a generation that has grown up and never known a time when our country has not been at war. Did you know that 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending, and only 15 cents goes to anti-poverty programs?” Rev. Allgood asked rhetorically.
“The post 9/11 wars have cost the U.S. $5.6 trillion, and military spending in 2017 was $688 billion.”
Rev. Foster continued by quoting Martin Luther King Jr.: “If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”
The Poor People’s Campaign focuses as much on factual evidence as personal testaments.
Nicholas Johnson with Students Demand Action Montgomery stood at the podium. “I’m at risk of losing my life to gun violence,” Johnson said. His hands gripped onto the microphone.
“Because of my skin color, I’m automatically a target for police officers. Because I’m a student, I’m a target for individuals, whom if they want to, can commit genocides. Because if I reside in a dangerous neighborhood, my life is at risk. According to the CDC, 96 people die from gun violence each day. This is mind-boggling. But do you know who seems to be least affected by this? Many of our current politicians in Montgomery, in Alabama, and across the United States,” he continued, finishing his speech by calling for citizens to vote in 2018.
Around 2 p.m., demonstrators began their journey to Alabama’s Liberty Bell replica, and to the State House. Protesters gathered around, kneeling, as moral witnesses laid down blocking doors. On the face of the State House, inscribed in Latin read, “We dare defend our rights.”
An hour later, demonstrators mobilized and entered the government building. Protesters signed-in and checked their bags through security, sitting in a circle at the center of the room. Few moments of silence were felt between songs and protesters calling for bans on “assault rifles,” and “ reforming the easy access of firearms.”
Though most of the state Senate and House were gone for the extended weekend, many office staff, police and troopers lurked around corners. Protesters often found themselves being recorded and photographed by staff on their phones, or with cameras held at hip level.
As police organized paperwork — preparing to arrest any demonstrators who occupied the building past closing — protesters lead by Carole Griffin and Shea Rives exited the Capitol feeling optimistic that their message was heard.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s plea and the Poor People’s Campaign fell on deaf ears as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a plan Wednesday to arm school administrators.
Administrators at schools without resource officers would be allowed to “use lethal force to defend the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of his or her school from the threat of imminent bodily harm or death by an armed intruder,” according to a memo signed by the governor.
Ivey, who is endorsed by the NRA, also received an “A” for her role as a pro-gun lawmaker, yet Alabama ranks as the second deadliest state due to gun violence according to a recent analysis of data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[CNN] [24/7 Wall St.] [Photo courtesy AP/Susan Walsh]