Nearly 200 marchers and supporters gathered in a poverty-stricken East Baltimore Saturday to kick off a civil rights march to Washington, DC, demanding, "Jobs Not Jails," support for Immigrant Rights, "Hands Off Social Security, Medicare, and Health Care" and an end to police brutality.
The rally and march were endorsed by the Baltimore Central Labor Council and by a number of worker, peace, and civil rights organizations.
People came in groups from as far away as Rhode Island, California and Alabama to join the march to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 "Poor People's Campaign." The marchers expected to arrive Sunday afternoon at Freedom Plaza in Washington, the site created in 2010 by Occupy DC.
One marcher said he was just diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia. When asked what caused it, the marcher replied, "Capitalism. Low paying jobs - when I should have been taking care of my body and eating well."
Another marcher was a union steward who works at Ft. Meade, one of many federal employees who work in childcare and other support services for enlisted personnel. She reported that recently all the hotels on military bases were outsourced to the Holiday Inn and all employees have to reapply for their jobs.
The Baltimore rally was led by the Baltimore chapter head of SCLC Rev. C.E. Witherspoon. He was joined, among others at the microphone, by relatives of Alan Blueford, a teenager killed by Oakland, Calif. police.
The march stepped off under rainy skies with about 100 walkers behind the Poor People's Campaign banner which led two dozen support vehicles festooned with banners and signs. One pickup truck displayed two large 4' X 6' signs which read: "APWU says SAVE America's Postal Service."
The marchers were headed to College Park, MD before continuing on to their final destination of Washington, DC.
The gathering was diverse, including Latino Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, and whites. Present were members from a number of unions and community groups.
One supporter who saw the event from her car said, "What an incredible sight! I crept along until I reached the march and honked and waved and hollered, 'You are doing the absolutely right thing!' out the window to everyone I saw."
Photo: Jim Baldridge/PW