Two activists from Greater Morristown were arrested outside the Statehouse in Trenton on Monday after leading demonstrators to block traffic, as part of a nationwide relaunch of the Poor People’s Campaign started by Martin Luther King Jr. a half century ago.
The Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in Morris Township and Diana Mejia, founder of the Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center, were among 19 activists arrested on West State Street.
“This was a symbolic action to get at the message that we’re heading in the wrong direction” as a country, Miller said.
“We need to change laws that are oppressing people and denying them the right to live in dignity,” said Mejia.
They were handcuffed briefly, and then released pending summonses that will inform them of the charges against them, they said.
Protests were scheduled in more than 30 states on Monday, kicking off plans for 40 days of nonviolent demonstrations. Speakers in Trenton shared personal stories pegged to Monday’s theme, the impact of poverty on women, children and the disabled.
The Rev. William Barber, a pastor in North Carolina and national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, contends official estimates of 41 million Americans living in poverty could be off by nearly 100 million people.
The campaign is challenging “systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism” in the United States, according to its website.
Many New Jersey residents “are one paycheck from homelessness, a crisis. It could be a medical bill, or loss of a job,” said Miller, adding she is “tired of evangelicals preaching a ‘prosperity gospel'” while the gulf between rich and poor widens.
Miller traveled to Standing Rock in North Dakota last year to join Native Americans protesting a proposed oil pipeline. Monday was her first arrest, she said.
Mejia was arrested earlier this year at an immigration rally; she has been arrested many times for civil disobedience, she said.
This Thursday, May 17, 2018, the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship will host a discussion about a United Way report, scheduled for release that day, which is anticipated to challenge conventional employment statistics.
The event starts at 12:30 pm at 21 Normandy Heights Road in Morris Township. Register here or call (973) 993-1160 x 114.