The Kansas Poor People’s Campaign is a participant in the national Poor People’s Campaign. With cities across the state participating, including Wichita, Manhattan, Lawrence, Topeka, Lenexa, Kansas City Kansas, and many participants from rural towns as well, our campaign highlighted the issues of poverty, racism, militarism and the environment and the way in which they are linked.
With weekly press conferences and rallies, we organized moral direct action/civil disobedience designed to draw attention to the conditions in Kansas and across the country that are causing inequality to increase and creating barriers to civic participation. In one action, we occupied the conference room of Kris Kobach, one our state’s most infamous leaders whose voter suppression policies have been touted nationally to conservative leaders trying to decrease the voter turnout of communities of color and communities of poverty. In addition, his anti-immigrant policies and anti-LGBTQ policies and pro-gun policies have been among the worst ideas to be introduced in our state and beyond.
We visited the Governor’s office and pointed out the ongoing refusal of our state’s leadership to expand Medicaid to the 150,000 people in Kansas (many of whom are disabled and/or working) who fall in the gap between the ACA and our current Medicaid qualifications. We stood in front of our Department of Children and Families and highlighted the extremes issues we have had with this agency and as well as the work overload it faces due to the increase in poverty in our state and systemic underfunding by our legislature. 2,000 more kids are in foster care because parents can’t afford childcare and are working too much to try to make ends meet. Our agency has lied and purposely hidden information about child deaths in abuse cases that were inadequately investigated. Missing foster care kids and contractors keeping kids in offices overnight when they unable to place them have also been hallmarks of this dysfunctional institution. We highlighted the simultaneous hyper funding of military efforts around the world and the recruitment of poor kids and kids of color into military programs where they are underpaid in stark contrast to the millions and even billions being made by private contractors. Our young adults come home broken in mind and body and are virtually abandoned–leading to a high suicide rate among veterans and families on the brink of disaster. 15-35 people agreed to commit civil disobedience each week with 100-200 other participants supporting the actions.
Working with a local attorney and an ACLU attorney, we were able to negotiate some of our fees and bonds, but each participant in civil disobedience likely will spend a minimum of $200. Many participants are themselves low income and several participated in civil disobedience more than once.
We hope to raise funds to assist them and to have on hand for the next campaign. As this work continues, we hope to support more and more low income and people of color wanting to commit civil disobedience who have been concerned about the costs.