It's been more than 40 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. began his "POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN" which he never got to see through to its fruition, due to his assassination. It's been more than 20 years since the homeless marched to Washington, DC en masse. This might begin to explain why the powers that be seem to have forgotten about the poor, homeless and dispossessed. In some instances it seems more like they have waged an all-out "war on the poor". Let's face it: politicians often speak of helping the middle class, while neglecting those living in abject poverty. When they do acknowledge our existence, it is only to say that they are going to stop funding some much-needed social service. It's high time that we came out in large numbers and had a real show of force.

Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this blog post earlier today, I went to my Facebook fan page entitled "Homeless Homeless Advocate Eric Jonathan Sheptock" and ran across a web page entitled "Seize DC" (http://legitgov.org/seizedc) which advertised an event being put on by Citizens for Legitimate Government (CLG). It calls for people to occupy DC beginning on September 10th, 2011 and to continue to put pressure on our government until it changes its direction and aptly serves the American people. The mission and purpose of Seize DC and CLG are not all that different from that of the march that I am calling for in this blog post. As if some type of divine intervention were underway, the September 10th date of Seize DC coincides almost perfectly with one of the 2 dates that I have previously put forth as a date for the march -- September 15th, 2011 and March 15th, 2012.

That said, I will proceed with my call for a POOR PEOPLE'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON, DC, as does no violence to the Seize DC event but seeks to help many of the same people -- the poor, homeless and dispossessed. And both events seek to pressure the U.S. Government into redirecting our national resources away from illegitimate wars overseas and toward helping the needy here at home as well as solving other domestic problems.

The 2 dates that I set forth are significant insomuch as they each come about 2 weeks before certain government policies that are designed to hurt the poor might go into effect. The new fiscal year for DC Government as well as the U.S. Government begins on October 1st. That is when proposed cuts to HUD (Housing and Urban Development) funding as well as cuts to funding for other federal and local programs that help the neediest among us would go into effect. April 1st is the official end of Washington, DC's "Hypothermia Season" (as defined by DC Law) and that is when many shelters were threatened with closure, as local law only requires the city to shelter people when the temperature is 32 and below or 95 and above. (Hereto now the city has sheltered people year-round, though they weren't required to.) Thousands of people, including hundreds of small children, would've been put on the streets of our nation's capital in a single day; however, the direct action of hundreds of activists and advocates forced the DC Council to change its mind. Even so, the council must vote on the FY 2012 budget for a 2nd time on June 7th and then it must go to Capitol Hill for a 30-day congressional review, after which it MIGHT be finalized. So we aren't out of the woods yet. All things considered, the September 15th to October 1st, 2011 time frame has national significance; whereas, the march 15th to April 1st, 2012 time frame has local significance only, but gives us more lead time for planning.

So, I will give prospective marchers the lay of the land here in Washington, DC and let them know how to navigate the system and find resources.

Washington, DC begins to experience freezing nights in mid-October and this can continue through mid-March, sometimes into early-April. This is all the more reason for a September action. However, as previously stated, DC Government must provide shelter for ALL homeless people who present at its facilities needing shelter whenever the temperature is 32 and below (including wind chill factor) or 95 and above (with the heat index). They may not deny anyone emergency shelter under such circumstances, no matter where they are from. If hundreds of thousands of people were to inundate the city in an effort to force policy change at the local and/or national levels, that would stress the system, force both governments to be innovative and send out a strong message that they'd better find ways to take care of their people. I'd love to see just how it would pan out.

We also have a "Hypothermia Hotline": (800) 535-7252. A person can call that number to have a van pick them up from any part of the city and take them to shelter. If they choose to stay on the streets, the hypothermia van will bring them blankets -- gray, wool blankets.

There are a few places across the city that feed the homeless, most notable among them S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) at 71 "O" Street NW. There is no reason for someone to go hungry in Washington, DC.....yet.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (http://www.legalclinic.org/) can be reached at (202) 528-5500 and serves the homeless community of DC by giving them legal advice, connecting them with pro bono lawyers from various law firms and directing them to various services that are there for the poor and homeless.

As for where a person would pitch a tent, there is the National Mall http://www.principalspage.com/theblog/archives/the-national-mall-is-a-national-disgrace which has an almost 2-mile long stretch of open grass which is about 200 yards wide. (About 1.3 miles of it are pictured between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument in the preceding link.)

Another similarity between what I am hoping for and the Seize DC plan is that both call for actions without permits. Protests in Washington, DC are strictly regulated and protest organizers are required to apply for permits in order to stage a protest. However, a spontaneous, ongoing flash mob would not have any immediate authorities that police could hold accountable, which would make it unmanageable for them. Besides, folk like myself and Citizens for Legitimate Government have asked the question: "Why is it that we protest according to the rules of the government whose policies we disagree with?????"

I have given you enough information for you to be able to plan your trip to DC to speak truth to power. Nonetheless, this is the first of several such messages. Furthermore, I will soon travel to Philadelphia to meet with long-time activist and friend Cheri Honkala and discuss how to get the national PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT moving. I will do everything within my power to help make 2011 the year that we see "change we can believe in" -- the change that Obama promised. As the Seize DC site says, he actually showed us "beliefs that can be changed". I hope that you too will put your best foot forward to usher in positive change.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003


John Rivera said…
There is a poor peoples' march on Washington. It will happen this Labor Day: http://bit.ly/qXMvZC

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