Moral Witness at the White House
On Wednesday June 12, Rev. Dr. William Barber II brought his campaign to D.C.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II brought his Moral Witness campaign to the White House on Wednesday, June 12. Known for the “Moral Mondays” protests he led at North Carolina’s state capitol which sought to put “morality” into policy, he has started a new “Poor People’s Campaign” which has organized demonstrations around the country.
His NGO, Repairers of the Breach, met in the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in the morning. Approximately 500 people listened to various speakers and singers.
It was a very ecumenical crowd, with Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams among the speakers and in the audience.
Women were well represented, as were various races and colors.
Outside the church they lined up in the street.
Moral Witness Wednesday marched to the White House via a circular route.
There weren’t many colorful signs in this march, but there were a lot of colorful stoles.
Moral Witness had a permit to rally in Lafayette Park and had erected a stage, but just as they arrived at the entrance at H and 16th St., the Secret Service closed the park and told everyone in it to leave. This included several other groups holding various signs in Pennsylvania Plaza, which is the prime protest spot in front of the White House.
While some thought this was done to thwart the protest, the Secret Service closes the entire park every time a protected person is in it, even briefly. Poland’s Head of State was staying at Blair House, across the street from the White House. Since cars were moving on the street, people crowded on the sidewalk.
As everyone waited, the press discovered that among them was South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of the many candidates for President. He was in DC to talk to black leaders, and had joined the march while it was in progress.
Rev. Barber made his way through the crowd to say hello, then decided to just start the rally and not wait for Secret Service to open the Park.
The press crowded in front, often making it hard to see.
After an hour, the US Park Police divided Lafayette Park in half with yellow tape so that Secret Service could allow people back in to the eastern half. Horses were brought in to make sure that humans did not go into the west side of the Park. Squirrels and birds were allowed to cross.
The rally on the stage that was supposed to start at 11:00, began at noon, though only with the remaining speakers.
The original plan was to march to a White House entrance and try to present a petition opposing “the harmful policies of our current administration.” About a hundred people signed a commitment to non-violence at the church indicating that they planned to commit civil disobedience at the White House. Wearing green armbands, they marched to the front when the rally ended, and led the rest to Pennsylvania Plaza.
There they found another set of barricades. Secret Service had let people into one half of the Park, but that did not include Pennsylvania Plaza. Across the street was as close as they could get to the White House. After requesting the police to open up, Moral Witnesses settled for taping their petition to the barricades, and tossing a binder with 5,464 names of signatories in it on the other side.
No one broke through the barricades, and no one was arrested.