Indiana Poor People’s Campaign Meets with Governor, Discuss DemandsPosted on: July 22, 2018, by : Jeff Turner
By Jeff Turner
The Indiana Poor People’s Campaign, an activist group dedicated to addressing social justice issues and economic inequality, met with Governor Eric Holcomb Friday July 20th to discuss with him their demands. Back in May, during the second week of their Forty Days of Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Action campaign, part of a national campaign of civil disobedience over a six week period, five activists affiliated with the group tied themselves with zip ties to the gates of the Governor’s Residence, demanding a meeting with Holcomb. Holcomb was in Europe at the time and the activists were made to vacate the premises after twenty-four hours. Nonetheless, they persisted, and were finally granted a meeting with the Governor.
“(The intent of) the civil disobedience at the Governor’s Residence was to get his (Holcomb’s) attention, for him to hear the demands of the Indiana Poor People’s Campaign for the State of Indiana,” said Aaron Hobbs of the Indiana Poor People’s Campaign Coordinating Committee. “This meeting shows that it was successful and today we are presenting (Holcomb with) a Restorative Justice Proposal.”
The purpose of this proposal, according to Hobbs, was to convince the Governor to call for a special commission to investigate five areas: systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy and militarism (which includes the “militarization of local police forces”), ecological devastation, and a distorted moral narrative. When asked what this distorted moral narrative is, Hobbs said “that poor people are to blame for their own poverty as opposed to the systems that keep them in poverty. You’d have to work eighty-four hours a week on a $7.25 minimum wage in Indiana just to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It’s a disingenuous argument. The other is that the poor don’t work. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s that their work isn’t valued and doesn’t allow them to live the way they should be able to.”
Their proposal included many demands that can’t be solved with legislation, and that were rather idealistic, though some of their more specific demands included the passage of a hate crime bill, raising the minimum wage, increasing investment in low-income housing, free Pre K-college, an expanded healthcare system, training police departments in de-escalation techniques to decrease the number of deadly encounters between the police and citizens, and stopping the expansion of nonrenewable energy sources while prioritizing the development of clean, renewable energy. They also called for redistricting reform and an end to gerrymandering.
Some of these issues have been taken up by the State Legislature and failed to pass (hate crime bill, redistricting reform). Others would likely be defeated or shelved before they even made it onto the floor for a vote. Nonetheless, the Indiana Poor People’s Campaign remained optimistic that their meeting with Holcomb would at least start a dialogue that would allow these issues to be addressed.
After meeting with the Governor, the representatives of the group left feeling that they had succeeded in achieving their goal. “It went really well,” said Tony Davis, another member of the Poor People’s Campaign Coordinating Committee who met with Holcomb. “He was open to collaborating with our campaign. He has programs that he’s wanting us to get out to help the community. He was (also) open to our further writing out of our proposals.”
One of their demands, which Davis said Holcomb put first on his list of items to consider, was for the Governor to have Prosecutor Terry Curry dismiss the charges against the nineteen members of the group who were arrested during their Forty Days campaign. There were twenty arrests total (one individual was arrested twice), fourteen for obstructing traffic during week one of the campaign, and six for criminal trespass during week four, when activists refused to leave the rotunda of the Statehouse after it closed at 5pm.
Despite this, Holcomb agreeing to meet with them they felt was a positive sign. “There is space in moving forward with this administration,” Davis said. When asked how he felt former Governor and current Vice President Mike Pence would have reacted to their Forty Days campaign had he still been governor when it was conducted, he said “I don’t think he (Pence) would have even had a meeting with us.” He went on to say “I feel hopeful of the collaboration with the Governor with reserved hesitancy until we see actual progress with the issues we have brought to his attention.”
When asked what the group had planned should they not see any actual progress from Holcomb’s Administration, neither Davis nor any other members would comment publicly. Whether there will be any real progress in regards to the issues they attempted to bring to the Governor’s attention remains to be seen.
More information on the Poor People’s Campaign can be found at: www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.