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Poor Peoples Campaign lists demands for Ohio lawmakers

(February 13, 2019) — The Ohio Poor People’s Campaign called for a “moral revival” and mending of “broken hearts” in a letter delivered to state senators and representatives Wednesday — Valentine’s Day eve.

“Our hearts are broken this Valentine’s Day because Ohio is in moral crisis,” the Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, the group’s tri-chair, said to the crowd, who held broken paper hearts labeled with their demands. The “valentines” were given to legislators, along with the letter and supporting documents.

The letter outlines six demands for the incoming legislature: voting rights, such as automatic registration and an end to “racist” gerrymandering; criminal justice reform; a living wage; renewable energy; continuation of Medicaid expansion and affordable housing. It reads: “We are uniting the poor … across sexual orientations, gender identity, age, ability and including people of all faiths and conscience, around a moral agenda based on our fundamental rights to vote, work, live and thrive in this country.”

According to the campaign, Ohio’s poverty rate is higher than the national average. Public housing advocate Moneaca Collins said poverty is linked to a lack of safe, affordable public housing. Without reform, “we’re never going to be able to get out of poverty,” she said.

The Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr. of Ohioans to Stop Executions called to abolish the death penalty and mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects people of color and those in poverty, he said.

“The old yet outrageous adage remains true: Those without capital receive the punishment,” Sullivan said.

The crowd also heard from Chad Stephens of the Sierra Club, who urged politicians to transition to a green economy and 100 percent clean energy through a poem, keeping with the romantic theme of Valentine’s Day; and Bob Krasen of the Single-Action Network Payer Ohio, who rallied for keeping the Medicaid expansion and, ultimately, expanding it to universal health care.

Cleveland bartender Atlee McFellon spoke to increasing the minimum wage to a living wage — a wage high enough to maintain a standard of living. He told living-wage opponents: “Your incompetence is malignant; you force us here to fight for our very survival while the market fundamentalism you preach is as broken as your moral compass. … It is our toil that lines your pockets.”

These demands were marched to legislators at the Statehouse and Riffe Center by supporters and members of the Ohio Poor People’s Campaign.

“Fight poverty, not the poor!” the letter concludes.