About 200 people gathered on the Capitol Campus, marched down Capitol Way and temporarily blocked traffic at some downtown intersections on Monday afternoon, all of it coordinated to call attention to poverty.
The action, one of several similar events throughout the country, was called the Washington Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, according to a news release issued in advance of the 2 p.m. gathering.
It began on the Legislative Building steps with a series of speakers, including Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia.
“There has been much enmity directed at too many people these last few years,” Goldstein told the audience. “The promotion of the few at the expense of the many, the promotion of now at the expense of the future, the promotion of war over peace, privilege over justice, might over equality, and hate over love.”
According to information distributed at the gathering, the poor people’s campaign was launched 50 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to tackle racism, poverty and militarism.
In Washington state, 41 percent of people are considered poor or low-income, according to data distributed at the gathering.
Kelly Thompson of Olympia, who is retired, said he attended Monday’s event “to try to bend the arc of injustice that we are experiencing.”
He further described it as the increasing inequality of wealth. Historically, that has produced tensions between rich and poor which have erupted over the years, he said.
“I’m not after eruption, but I am after balancing,” Thompson said.
After the speeches, the group marched down Capitol Way and had brief sit-ins at various stops along the way, including at 11th Avenue and Capitol Way and again at Legion Way and Washington Street.
Monday’s event will kick off six weeks of non-violent direct action in Olympia, according to the campaign’s news release. At the conclusion of that period, the poor, clergy and others plan to bring their message to Washington, D.C.