"Everybody's got a right to live."
That was the chant as the Poor People's Campaign marched Monday from the Hopkinsville Municipal Center to Freeman Chapel on South Virginia Street. The campaign recently embarked on a national bus tour and made stops through western Kentucky Monday.
The campaign was created by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 as a way to advocate for economic justice. Following King's teachings, the campaign was built around the First Amendment right to protest peacefully.
More recently, the Rev. William Barber brought the campaign back to protest economic poverty across the county. As evidenced by the slogan on the shirts that the more than 80 participants in Hopkinsville were wearing, the campaign wants to lead "A National Call for Moral Revival."
Megan Meyer, a local supporter of the campaign, told the group that around four years ago a tornado took out a large group of Hopkinsville's affordable housing.
"They're almost all (Housing and Urban Development) and Section 8 homes," she said "They're falling in, they're dilapidated and they're all rentals."
She urged landlords in the city to bring low-income housing up to code.
"Everyone deserves to live in dignity," she said.
She brought up the backpack program that some schools in Christian County participate in. Under that program, food is donated and placed in a backpack for underprivileged students.
"Some of (the children), their only meals are at school," she said.
George Pettit, a consultant in the agricultural business in Princeton, told the crowd that food supply is a major problem for all underprivileged families. He said the problem goes all the way back to farms, where there aren't enough workers to harvest all of the food.
"Our migrant policies need to be revisited," he said. "…We've got too many crops that are … laid to waste."
He said fruits, nuts and vegetables in particular are wasted on farms throughout the country. He argued the the United States has the cleanest and most affordable food in the country yet some families go hungry.
He also argued against the "trade war" that President Donald Trump has taken part in over the last few years. He said the trade war will have a long impact on farmers.
In 2018, the campaign protested at the Kentucky state capitol six times. The capitol eventually denied access to the entire group of over 100 protestors.
According to an article in the Louisville Courier Journal in June 2018, the group showed up to learn about a new rule put in place that allowed only two members of the group inside the building at the time.
The article said the group sent two campaign leaders into the capitol to turn in a petition to respect the rights of the poor to the governor. A member of the governor's staff accepted the petition.
As the Hopkinsville rally made its way down South Virginia Street, signs that read "Fight poverty, not the poor," and "Systemic racism is immoral," waved in the strong Monday winds.
The campaign made it clear it would be in Kentucky for the long haul as it fights to help the underprivileged.
The group sang the second part of the campaign's chant as it walked to Freeman Chapel: "Before this campaign fails, we'll all go down to jail."
Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.