“Moral Mondays,” one of America’s most important civil disobedience movements in this post-Civil Rights era, resumed in earnest last week with a new round of urgency.

The mass rallies are organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, co-chaired by Rev. William J. Barber II, a Goldsboro pastor who attained national prominence in 2013, when he organized the first Moral Monday to protest a conservative agenda in North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state legislature.

Last week, the group organized a Moral Monday rally on Halifax Mall, which included a 90-second, pre-recorded message of support from President Joe Biden.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been together at a time of such opportunity to deliver dignity for our nation’s poor and low-wage workers and make ending poverty not just an aspiration but a theory of change,” Biden said.

The rally was part of a year-long national campaign that will culminate on June 18, 2022, with what organizers describe as a “Moral March on Washington” in support of action to help the poor and low-wage workers.

In a press statement, Barber said the upcoming year of Moral Monday protests “will include moral, nonviolent street agitation, legislation, litigation and voter participation.”

“We who have known poor and low-wage people and other impacted people have work to do,” Barber said. “Until the poor are lifted; workers are paid; the sick are healed and insured; voting is not suppressed; police killing is stopped; land, air and water are not poisoned; war is not pushed, promoted and promulgated; humanity is respected; children are protected; and civil rights and labor rights and human rights are never neglected — until these things are actualized, their absence must embolden and intensify our dissent and agitation.”

On June 16, Barber and Rev. Jesse Jackson were among 23 demonstrators arrested in Washington after some 300 people marched from the U.S. Supreme Court building to a Senate office building in an attempt to meet with Senators Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell regarding the Senate’s filibuster of the For The People Act. 

According to a Poor People’s Campaign press release, the group was “engaged in nonviolent moral, civil disobedience and was arrested in front of the Hart (Senate Office) building to dramatize that the senators were wrong and would not meet their constituents.”

Updating the country’s antiquated poverty measures are at the center of the new campaign, and so is support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was gutted in 2013 by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder

“We know that voting rights are critical to this agenda and the coalition that can make it happen,” Barber said. “And we know that the current use of the filibuster in the US Senate is an obstacle to this agenda. So we are focused on removing the obstacles and building the power necessary to achieve this agenda for the people.”

Barber told the INDY that the Poor People’s Campaign is focused on the formation of a “Third Reconstruction,” whose policy agenda “lays out a plan to lift from the bottom so that every American has access to living wages, healthcare, affordable housing, clean water, and education.”

Last month, Democratic U.S. House members Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee introduced a resolution, “Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up,” which is supported by the Poor People’s Campaign.

The resolution, which has yet to receive a vote, calls on lawmakers to “summon the moral and political resolve of the nation to center the needs of the 140 million people who are poor, low-wealth and/or living one emergency away from economic ruin…with moral laws and policies.”

The resolution, Barber said, “gives every politician an opportunity to go on the record about what they are willing to do to lift everybody.

“Some of our Democratic friends say they cannot do more because of moderates in the caucus,” he added. “But when the overwhelming majority of Americans recognize the need for living wages, healthcare, and big infrastructure spending, we say ‘put the legislation on the floor and make everyone declare which side they are on and vote it up and down.’”

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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.