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Six people arrested outside State House on Monday, including pastor

  • The New Hampshire Poor People’s Campaign began a six-week season of nonviolent direct action Monday in Concord, demanding a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting laws, new poverty assistance programs, increased environmental protection, and decreased government military action. Six people were arrested Monday in downtown Concord after a line of protesters blocked traffic as an act of civil disobedience. Courtesy

  • The New Hampshire Poor People’s Campaign began a six-week season of nonviolent direct action Monday in Concord, demanding a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting laws, new poverty assistance programs, increased environmental protection, and decreased government military action. Several people were arrested Monday in downtown Concord for blocking traffic as an act of civil disobedience. Courtesy

  • The New Hampshire Poor People’s Campaign began a six-week season of nonviolent direct action Monday in Concord, demanding a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting laws, new poverty assistance programs, increased environmental protection, and decreased government military action. Several people were arrested Monday in downtown Concord for blocking traffic as an act of civil disobedience. Courtesy

  • Poor People’€™s campaign protester the Rev. Jason Wells stands near the crosswalk where he was arrested Monday afternoon. As a crowd of 120 New Hampshire Poor People’€™s campaign protesters circled the State House, Wells and five others intentionally moved onto State Street, blocking traffic. After about 10 minutes, the six were surrounded by police, who warned them that if they didn’t move, they could be arrested for disorderly conduct. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Rev. Jason Wells planned on getting arrested in downtown Concord on Monday.

When the Episcopalian pastor was put in handcuffs and taken into police custody, he achieved his goal of bringing attention to the plight of the poor.

His arrest was an act of civil disobedience coordinated with a national movement, The Poor People’s Campaign, founded by Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago to fight systemic racism, poverty, militarism and the destruction of the environment.

As a crowd of 120 campaign protesters circled the State House Monday afternoon, Wells and five others intentionally moved onto State Street, blocking traffic.

The group of six was surrounded by police, who warned them that if they didn’t move, they could be arrested for disorderly conduct.

“They asked us individually if we could step aside, and each of us said we could not do that,” Wells said. “We wanted to make a statement.”

Wells and his fellow protesters were transported to the Merrimack County Jail in Boscawen. They were released 2½ hours later and will go to court in June to face misdemeanor charges.

“They were calm and kind,” Wells said of the officers who arrested him. “All of the interactions were respectful and positive throughout.”

Although the original Poor People’s Campaign lost steam shortly after King was assassinated in 1968, it has resurfaced in recent years. Chapters of the movement exist in most states.

Organizer Margaret Fogarty said she likes the intersectional approach the movement takes to issues surrounding poverty, like race, gender and the environment.

The New Hampshire Poor People’s Campaign will be hosting rallies over the course of five more weeks to bring attention to these topics – one week focusing on systemic racism, another on mass incarceration, and another on veterans and the war economy.

Monday’s protest focused on child poverty, women in poverty and people with disabilities.

Fogarty said the acts of civil disobedience are intended to bring “new energy” to the movement.

“We believe that these stories of injustice have gone underheard or unrecognized for too long, and we need to do something to change that,” she said. “We need a way to catch people’s attention and make sure they listen.”

Wells said he attended hours of nonviolent resistance training in preparation for the first day of rallies.

The trainings are a requirement of participation, Fogarty said. The Poor People’s Campaign will be hosting the next nonviolent direct action training in Nashua on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

“It’s not just anyone who walks up and says, ‘Oh, cool, can I do that?’ ” Fogarty said. “It’s very intentional, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe.”

At the conclusion of the 40-day campaign on June 23, organizers from New Hampshire will join a mass mobilization in Washington, D.C. The Poor People’s Campaign estimates 140 million Americans are living in poverty.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)