Monday, June 8, 2020

Open Letter Demanding a People's Moral Budget

Today I fasted in support of the Poor People's Campaign's call for focusing on our demands for equitable treatment of Black and Brown people in our country. I've never used fasting as a tool for focus or awareness before, and it is very powerful... every time I felt hungry and reminded myself I'm fasting, I remembered the Black and Brown people who, due to systemic racism are more than twice as likely to be food insecure than I, a white person is. And many more times as likely to be harmed by police. That brings me to the demands I am making today, for equity for all of us in this country, taken from The Poor People's Campaign's list for today's Moral Monday National Day of Fasting and Focus:

1. There must be consequences for abuses of police power, and justice for families and commuities who have been harmed and terrorized by police violence must be a matter of law. We demand federal legislation that makes officers accountable and liable for abuses of their power through apprehension, investigation, prosecution, conviction and incarceration. This means:  
  • Any officer who abuses the power to kill with racial or discriminatory intent will be prosecuted for murder.
  • Any officer who stands by and does nothing against the excessive use of force will be prosecuted as an accessory to the crime.  
  • A city that hires officers who abuse their powers against a community will pay damages to the victims’ families.
2. Demilitarize the police. End mass incarceration and stop criminalizing the poor. This means:
  • End the 1033 program that sends military equipment to local and state law enforcement and end all programs that provide military training for local and state police.
  • Ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against people who are unarmed and of no danger to anyone but themselves.
  • Require police training in de-escalation and non-lethal techniques.
  • End cash bail, predatory fines and fees on the poor. When state and local governments are in fiscal crisis, they rely on cash bail, fines, fees and filling jail beds to raise revenues. This puts the burden of proof on poor people to prove their innocence, rather than assuming their innocence until proven guilty.
  • Instead of criminalizing the poor to raise state and local revenues, raise taxes on the corporations and the wealthy and direct federal resources to state and local governments for unarmed, civilian public health, mental health, EMT and social services emergency responders.
  • Stop locking people up for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors by replacing prison sentencing with community service and substance abuse treatment.
  • End the easy access to firearms that has contributed to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.
  • Decrease funding in federal, state and local budgets for the military, policing and incarceration, including ending the use of any resources for new prisons, jails and unnecessary police equipment, and direct that money toward the real security of our communities: quality public schools, universal health care and decent jobs with living wages.
3. Establish real security by taking care of our health needs in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and address the poverty and disinvestment in our communities that brought us to this point. This means:
  • Ensure universal health care for all. Poor, black and brown people, including undocumented people and Native communities, are facing higher rates of infection and death with fewer resources and infrastructures. We demand free and/or affordable testing, treatment and hospital care for all. Everybody must have access to health care during a pandemic, without fear of the costs, incarceration, deportation or detention.
  • Reopen hospitals. Hospitals in black, brown, indigenous and poor communities that have been closed during this pandemic and the last ten years must be reopened.  
  • Expand Medicaid. Our government must expand Medicaid in every state.
  • Essential protections for essential workers. Black, brown, indigenous and poor people are disproportionately represented among the workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis, including in health care, childcare, elder care, grocery and big box stores, janitorial and cleaning services, public transit, fast food and other sectors of the economy. All workers must have paid family leave, paid sick leave, hazard pay, PPE, living wages and the right to form and join unions.
  • A permanent, guaranteed and adequate annual income/universal income. This includes rapid, direct payments to all low-wage, temporary, laid off and unemployed workers for the duration of this crisis and a universal income that provides economic security to us all. It also includes an income for care providers whose work is critical to our health and economy.
  • Secure access to social welfare and unemployment. Given the over-representation of people of color and the poor in hospitality, retail and other service jobs, social welfare programs like SNAP, housing assistance and unemployment insurance must be fully funded and expanded to meet the needs at hand.
  • Guarantee housing, water and utilities for all. Even during a pandemic, poor, indigenous, black and brown people are being evicted and losing access to water and utilities. All evictions must stop immediately, including encampment sweeps and the towing of vehicles of unhoused communities. Tax foreclosures and rent hikes must also end. Federal resources must be directed to open and prepare vacant and habitable buildings to house and provide adequate care for all people who are homeless. All water and utility shut offs must also be ended and late-payment charges must be waived. Services that have been turned off must be turned back on. We demand a national affordability plan for water and utilities to secure universal access to these basic needs and federal resources for expanded water, sanitation and utilities infrastructure.
  • Debt relief: The racial wealth gap must not be worsened because of debts that have been accumulated through this pandemic. Mortgages, rents, water, utilities and student debt that cannot be paid must be canceled.
  • Fiscal support: As the pandemic triggers a deep economic crisis, there must be an infusion of federal resources to state and local governments to prevent cuts to critical health care, education and other programs. Federal support must be conditioned on prohibiting any increases in state and local police and incarceration budgets, ending all evictions, expanding Medicaid and stopping all water and utility shut offs.
  • The right to vote: Instead of tolerating voter suppression, which specifically targets black, brown, indigenous and poor people, our votes must be encouraged and supported. This requires dedicated resources to expand voting rights in our communities in November 2020 and beyond.
  • Lifting military sanctions and ending endless wars: The militarism that is brutalizing our communities at home is exacted with impunity against poor people of color around the world. We must end all wars. We must lift all economic sanctions, which are keeping life-saving medication, food and other resources from millions of people in a global pandemic.
4. Working with frontline movements and impacted communities, establish a National Truth Commission on the violence of systemic racism. The “Truth Commission” model of truth-telling draws on the history of grassroots and community-based responses to state-sanctioned terror in this country and around the world. We demand that frontline and impacted families and communities’ experiences and insights direct federal policy on these injustices. This means:
  • A National Truth Commission that is organized around grassroots and community-based forums to lift up the stories of suffering from impacted families and communities and their solutions on how we right these injustices. Their cries of pain must turn into the power to transform and reconstruct our society. 
These demands are part of the Moral Agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and reflect our policy priorities. They were first released in April 2018, have been delivered to Congress and state houses and read aloud in mass meetings, hearings, marches and bus tours in more than 40 states. Lawmakers and legislators — Republican, Democrat and independents — have been put on notice that the Poor People’s Campaign is holding them to account to this agenda.
We will not stop until we can ALL breathe.
Katie Kadwell, West Seattle, 98106

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