Around 100 people of mixed ages and races and with mixed purposes gathered last Friday for the 5th annual Poor Peoples’ March.

  • Photos by Anastasia Pantsios
Organizers Prisscilla Cooper of the Family Connection Center and Valerie Robinson of Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, the two main sponsors, kicked it off by talking about working to change policy to help the poor. Established activists like Larry Bressler of Advocates for Budget Legislation Equality, George Hrbek of the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry and Greg Coleridge of the American Friends’ Service Committee, economist George Zeller and auto worker Martha Grevatt laid out the facts and figures relating to unemployment and poverty.

As the march wended its way around Public Square and made stops at the County Office Building, the Celebrezze Office Building and City Hall, before ending up in Willard Park by the Free Stamp, participants brandished photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hand-lettered signs that asked “Why is Cleveland the poverty capital?” and suggested we “End poverty and war,” while chanting things like “One-two-three-four, money for jobs not for war” and “Stop the war against the poor.”

Such informal events draw those with their own agendas. A lone man tried to get a chant of “Stop police brutality” going and someone (maybe the same guy) yelled, “Kill killer cops.” Given that Cleveland police officers were escorting the group and holding up traffic for the walkers, it seemed ungracious at the very least, and at the next stop, MC Silver B. Richards asked for a hand for the officers.

And there were youthful rabble-rousers: Dvin Branch of the Jericho Project suggested the violence should be answered with violence, causing eyeball-rolling among some of the more seasoned activists. And red-haired Baldwin-Wallace student Caleb Maupin, sporting a T-shirt that said “Read Lenin and Trostsky,” gave a speech as fiery as his hair, shouting, “Power to the workers! Power to the people! Fight on! Fight on!” He should have been born 40 years earlier. — Anastasia Pantsios

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