Boston intersection blocked in protest

  • Protesters calling for a higher minimum wage blocked Congress and Franklin streets Monday afternoon in downtown Boston. State House New Service Photo

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

BOSTON — Calling for a higher minimum wage and other priorities, activists with the Poor People’s campaign shut down an intersection in Boston’s Post Office Square on Monday afternoon, sitting down in the middle of Congress and Franklin streets.

The action that could result in arrests came on week five of a six-week movement to revive the equality campaign that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. launched before his death 50 years ago.

“I’m mad. We got a lot to be angry about,” said Valerie Copeland, representing SEIU Local 509. She told those gathered outside the State House, “There is a war against poor people.”

In Post Office Square, in the heart of the Financial District, chants competed with honking horns and the civil disobedience inspired a range of responses from passersby and those in the traffic jam it caused.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Todd Jamieson, a Roxbury resident who was walking by. He said, “People are struggling but they’re so caught up in their everyday lives.”

A tour bus full of tourists was chagrined by the gridlock and unsympathetic to the goals of the activists.

“Let them get a job. Get off of welfare,” said a man who said he is visiting from Maryland and declined to provide his name to the News Service.

“Minimum skills. Minimum wage,” said another woman on the bus.

The full agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign has not been finalized, according to Rev. Vernon Walker, of the Boston Rescue Mission. The campaign teamed up Monday with Raise Up Massachusetts, which is pushing for passage of three questions on the November ballot: a $15 minimum wage; paid family and medical leave; and a surtax on incomes over $1 million to fund education and transportation.

Bob Massie, a Democrat who is running for governor, attended the protest in front of the State House and joined in a group that sang a protest song at the end of it. From the State House, the group marched to the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which opposes the Raise Up ballot questions and is backing a different ballot question to lower the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.