Scores arrested at Statehouse Demanding Healthcare and a Healthy Environment for All as NJ Poor People’s Campaign Protests Enter Fourth Week 

Scores arrested at Statehouse Demanding Healthcare and a Healthy Environment for All as NJ Poor People’s Campaign Protests Enter Fourth Week 

Trenton, NJ – Calling on lawmakers to introduce a moral budget and guarantee healthcare and a healthy environment for all, poor people, clergy and advocates were arrested at the statehouse Monday as the NJ Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival intensified during its fourth straight week of nonviolent direct action. The action in NJ was part of a wave of protests hitting 35 state capitals and Washington, D.C.

Monday’s protest highlighted how environmental issues like pollution and climate change disproportionately affect people living in poverty.

“I live in Roselle, a poor community of color in an area known as Cancer Alley due to the air pollution from the oil refineries, power plants and chemical processing facilities located here” said Myrtle Counts, President of the Roselle Area NAACP.  “I have asthma and so do my grandchildren.  And so many of our elders are fighting all forms of cancer. We’re dying from this pollution.”

“From the toxic legacy of Agent Orange in our waterways, to the power plants and trash incinerators that spew pollution into our air, we are living on the front lines of environmental injustice” said Tanisha Garner, mother of three and resident of Newarks Ironbound Community.   “Our air reaks of chemicals and our children suffer from lung disease.  Our state and federal lawmakers must do more to protect our communities and our shared planet.”


Hundreds of New Jerseyans rallied at the doorstep of the state’s capitol Monday afternoon chanting, “Let us in,” after authorities blocked them from entering the building, despite the fact that the state constitution guarantees the right of assembly for the common good.  State Police eventually arrested 10 demonstrators for attempting to enter the Statehouse during public hours for a meeting with Senate President Sweeney.  They called attention to the Senate’s failure to introduce a budget that include a Millionaires Tax and other key provisions to help the nearly 1 Million people living below the poverty line in New Jersey.

“I participated in the original Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago” said Jane Califf, resident of Bloomfield NJ.  “I’m taking action at our capitol today because the same injustices against poor and working people persist.  We must continue Dr. King’s vision and stand together for our rights, our lives, and our shared planet.”

As demonstrators rallied on the front steps of the capitol, a second group of faith leaders and activists disrupted the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Hearing inside the Statehouse. 5 people were arrested and removed from the hearing after they stood up and read a letter calling on Senate President Sweeney to introduce a moral budget that meets the needs of poor and working people in our state.

“I showed up to the budget committee meeting today as a faith leader,” said Reverend Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship Church.  “Budgets are moral documents.  One day when my child grows up and asks where I was when our legislators were making decisions which deprive the poor of healthcare and plunder our Mother Earth for profit, I will say: I raised my voice to side with the well-being of all people, with our planet, and with love.”

The latest ALICE data from the United Way of Northern NJ indicates that 10.5% of New Jersey residents are living at or below the federal poverty level, while another 30.5% of residents are working but unable to afford all their basic necessities like food, housing, healthcare, and transportation.

“Politicians in New Jersey are afraid to hear a true critique of their policies, which rob the poor of the right to healthcare and allow billion-dollar companies to pollute our water and environment, but we will not be silenced by their descent into authoritarianism,” said the Rev. Miller.

Speakers at the rally called on lawmakers to provide healthcare for the 70,000 children in New Jersey who are currently without health insurance.  They also called on Governor Murphy to protect the environment by stopping a series of new oil and gas pipeline projects proposed throughout the state, including a proposal by Williams Partners to build a 23 mile fracked gas pipeline under the Raritan Bay.  Governor Murphy and his DEP have until June 23rd to take action on the pending clean water act permit William’s needs to construct the pipeline.

“The climate crisis is right here, right now” said Jerome Wagner, chair of the climate advocacy group 350NJ.  “We need a moratorium on all new oil and gas pipelines in New Jersey, and a bold plan to put tens of thousands of New Jerseyans to work in the green economy.”

Protests are continuing across the country Monday afternoon. Already, dozens have been arrested for engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience from New Hampshire to Massachusetts, Washington, DC, to South Carolina. 

To spotlight the connection between a healthy environment and a healthy body, more than 1,000 people across 40 states and eight countries who are part of the Franciscan Action Network are fasting Monday in solidarity with the Poor People’s Campaign.



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