‘Moral Monday’ protesters bring progressive demands to Beacon Hill
By Evan Lips | September 12, 2016, 18:19 EST
BOSTON — The boisterous rally dubbed “Moral Mondays,” in which crowds of progressive activists and liberal clergy members descended upon Beacon Hill to gin up support for a laundry list of “moral” policy stances on issues such as education, criminal justice, climate change and the minimum wage, appeared unified on the surface.
Yet lurking just beneath the veneer of liberal activism, onlookers may have spotted the occasional fracturing in the form of charter school opposition and whether or not all support policies touting welfare cash transfer systems. Likewise, conservatives may question how the group’s pro-abortion stances qualify as a “sacred moral principle” and whether raising the minimum wage to $15 will backfire and result in a loss of jobs and increased automation.
Monday’s rally, which featured a mixture of clergy members and activists, peaked when the crowd deliver its lengthy list of “moral declaration principles” to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office and ended with a raucous march through Beacon Hill’s network of skinny streets.
“People ask me, ‘aren’t you worried about mixing faith and politics?’” Rev. Mariama White-Hammond of Jamaica Plain’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopalian Church told the crowd at the start of the rally. “And I tell them that the reality is, that religious leaders have already been influencing politics — unfortunately, many of them are promoting a version of values that are only focused on abortion or challenging gay marriage.”
The Beacon Hill rally marked one of a number Moral Mondays protests staged in cities and towns across the country, all led by religious progressives. According to White-Hammond, similar “moral declarations” were delivered to lawmakers on Monday in 25 additional states.
The movement dates back to 2013, when liberal clergy members in North Carolina staged a day of civil disobedience. Monday’s activity in Boston did not result in any arrests.
“This is a national movement, all around the country — even in Alaska — people are calling for justice,” White-Hammond said. “There are folks in Texas and in Alabama and in New Mexico who believe it is time for a moral revolution of values.”
The specific set of values, however, did not appear to be shared by all. At one point during Monday’s rally, the formal moral declaration was read, and included in the demands was that of “direct cash transfers and other support for all families struggling to get by.”
Christine Chase, a white mother of four special-needs children who said she was forced to support her entire family due to her husband’s drug addiction, told the crowd that despite living on the verge of homelessness she refused to live on welfare.
“I did not want that stigma,” she said. “So I wouldn’t ask for the financial help but I did go for food stamps.
“Even as a white woman with quote-unquote ‘white privilege,’ I still experience some of those pains that everyone else experiences.”
White-Hammond, who spoke at one point about the education portion of the group’s platform, decried the steering of tax dollars away from public schools.
“Public money to pay for private schools, including voucher or tax credit programs, drain much-needed resources from public education,” White-Hammond said.
White-Hammond also happens to be an active member of the Boston branch of the NAACP, which has been outspoken in its opposition to increasing the number of charter schools.
Others who spoke included Darius Cephus, a member of the national organizing committee leading the Fight for $15 movement to raise the minimum wage. Cephus told the crowd he’s been working at McDonald’s “off-and-on for the past five years” and added that while he could afford to live in an apartment when he first started working, “but then my rent went up — everything went up — I couldn’t afford anything, so I became homeless.”
“Now for years later, I’m here, I’m stable, and I’m helping to lead the fight for $15,” he added. “None of us should be struggling — these are moral values, but instead of that they want to work us to death.
“That American Dream to me is not real, because you don’t believe in it — why should I?”
Read the official list here:
VIDEO: Elizabeth Wexler, a member of the No Canton Gas Pipeline group opposing the expansion of the natural gas pipeline system in Massachusetts, ripped the “irrational extraction of fossil fuels at the cost of the destruction of this planet” during Boston’s Moral Monday protest at the Massachusetts State House.