By Caleb T. Maupin
Revolutionary and radical activists have called for a mass demonstration on Friday, Aug. 21, the anniversary of King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. The march will begin at noon at West 6th Street and Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland.
The fifth annual “Poor People’s March” will demand a jobs program for the unemployed, an end to home foreclosures and evictions, freedom for U.S. political prisoners, and an end to police brutality and repression. Organizers are asking that Cleveland schools practice “education, not criminalization” and that the welfare reform laws, which drive women into poverty and slavelike working conditions, be repealed.
Marchers will call for the Full Employment Act of 1978 to be enforced and for selective prosecution and unfair sentencing practices in Ohio’s courts to cease. They will demand that the prison industrial complex be dismantled and the death penalty be abolished. Youth in the coalition are demanding more funding for education and a massive reduction of college tuition.
The march plans to bring workers and oppressed people right to the offices of the elected officials in the state, federal and local government who stand in the way of the progressive demands the people need for basic survival.
The march raises the slogan “Keep the Dream Alive,” and organizers expect workers to pour into the streets to demand that the dream for a world with equality, freedom and dignity for all rise into being among the ruins of capitalism that haunt the Cleveland area and fill so many with despair and sadness.
Depressed situation demands fight back
When one walks through the streets of the Cleveland area, be it the densely populated urban districts or the residential neighborhoods of the suburbs, one cannot escape the harsh reality that the people are suffering immensely in a dying economy. The day labor centers for temporary work, where people can be hired to work for one day, find themselves packed each morning with those who long for an assignment that can sometimes mean the difference between a meal and a full day without food.
Foreclosed homes dot the neighborhoods, multiplying rapidly as so many families find themselves thrown from the homes they have inhabited for years. Countless young people near the college campuses speak of the difficulty in finding a summer job. Such jobs now belong to adults who once had better-paying jobs. In this economic collapse, they have been forced to take the low-wage jobs that youth depend on.
Prisscilla Cooper, an organizer for the Family Connection Center, works to help unemployed women find work before government assistance is cut off. Every day she sees more and more women lose their benefits and have their homes foreclosed or face eviction from their apartments. Many even have their children taken away from them. These women’s inability to find work in a jobless economy makes them “unfit” mothers in the eyes of the state. The government gives billions to help banks, yet continues to treat unemployed women trying to feed their children as a “burden.”
Many of Cleveland’s activists and organizers see the situation in their city, not simply as a tragedy to mourn, but as a call for militant action in defense of people’s basic human needs.
Endorsers of the Aug. 21 march include the Family Connection Center, Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, Black on Black Crime Inc., Oct. 22nd Coalition, Bail Out the People Movement, “We Demand Jobs” Coalition, Cleveland FIST, Baldwin-Wallace Food Justice Council and Cleveland New Black Panthers.
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