Poor People's Campaign protesters focused on U.S. military spending and the militarization of local communities Tuesday during a rally outside the Capitol.
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Eric Garbison, a Presbyterian pastor from Kansas City who led about 100 marchers along High Street into downtown Jefferson City, told people gathered there were five demands they were to make of the government: reduce military spending, ban assault weapons, demilitarize local communities, strengthen facilities for veterans and demilitarize U.S. borders.
"If there's one statistic to remember, it's that 53 percent of (U.S. discretionary) spending goes to the military," Garbison said. "Only 15 percent goes to anti-poverty programs."
Tuesday marked the third consecutive week the Poor People's Campaign has held a rally in Jefferson City. The first resulted in 88 people receiving citations for obstructing police (failure to obey police), a misdemeanor. During the second week of the protest, police cited 12 people. On Tuesday, 15 were cited on the scene and one was taken to the county jail for citation.
Michael Enriquez, executive director of Stand Up KC, faced the same charge as his colleagues.
Stand Up KC is a coalition of fast food and retail workers from Kansas City who have banded together to demand better wages and serve as a voice for low-wage workers, according to the organization's website.
Because he had been cited May 14 in the first week of the protests and had been issued a summons, Enriquez was taken to jail and cited for Tuesday's violation, which was also failure to obey police, and released without having to post bond.
Organizers of Tuesday's march and protest focused on militarism because of recent remarks by President Donald Trump.
They said Trump had bragged to North Korea about the United States' nuclear capabilities. Organizers wanted to highlight how U.S. government prioritizes war economy over elimination of poverty.
This is not a political debate; it's a "moral reckoning," Garbison said.
He said the federal government is spending billions of dollars on militarism.
"The money can be spent here at home," Garbison said. "The wars are distorting our society, militarizing our society."
He asked if marchers knew where all that money goes. Chief executive officers of the top five military contractors earn an average of $19.2 million per year, he said.
Preparing for and going to war drains the U.S. Treasury of money, leaving little for use anywhere else, Mary Hladky said.
"We are told the massive spending is necessary to support our troops when in fact, it supports military contractors."
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As Garbison, Hladky and others spoke, the marchers applauded and encouraged them. Most marchers carried signs with messages like: "Stop making bombs," "No more nukes" or "Missiles filled with depleted uranium," "$700 billion per year for military financial crisis" and more.
Marchers also had a banner that said, "Conquer the giant triplets: Racism, Economic Exploitation and Militarism."
One of the speakers was a veteran. Michael McPhearson, of St. Louis, served in the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War. He said Memorial Day was a time to remember his colleagues who he fought beside, but it was also a time to remember the people he fought against.
"They were people just trying to live their lives but were caught in the crossfires of war," McPhearson said. "Studies show that hundreds of thousands of civilians have died with millions displaced."
People aren't paying attention to the wars in which our government is getting involved, Hladky said.
"It just keeps spreading and getting worse," she said.