KWRU/ PPEHRC statement on WTO events

Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, 9/29/2003

Pronto mandaremos el espanol:

September 13, 2003

The Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign join our brothers and sisters around the world in today's Worldwide Day of Action Against Corporate Globalization and War. We speak to you from the long-silenced throats of the poor of the United States. We who have been disappeared are now breaking through the invisibility which has been forced on us. We join in the international effort to stop the WTO, as families and communities whose lives are under direct threat from agreements such as the NAFTA and the FTAA, and institutions such as the WTO. At the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999, our Director and National Spokesperson, Cheri Honkala was the person to be arrested, along with Ward Morehouse, when they attempted to deliver a charge of "Crimes Against Humanity" to the WTO ministers. While we were unable to afford to come to Cancun this year, we have been busy organizing the poor here in the United States to stop the WTO, the GATS, and the FTAA. Please continue below or see to read about our recent Poor People's March for Economic Human Rights.

As a movement of poor, homeless, landless and unemployed people in the United States, we have suffered the deadly economic human rights violations committed by the WTO and by the Bush administration. We have also been the victims of growing political repression here in the United States. We denounce the Bush administration's intention of putting $87 billion more into making war. We know that this money, which should be used to feed, house and provide health care for our people, will instead be used in this administration's war against the poor, both here at home and around the world. Like you, we live this war every day.

Daily we cannot afford to feed our children. We watch our loved ones die outside of the world's best hospitals, we sleep on the frigid streets and in unheated homes with no water, we cry for family members who commit suicide when their farms are taken away from them by the government as a result of NAFTA and WTO policies. From Kensington, in North Philadelphia, where homeless, unemployed families sleep inside of abandoned factories, where hundreds of thousands of jobs which we have lost are never coming back to Kansas, in the US heartland, where farmers are being thrown off of their land because they cannot compete against large agribusiness to Clinchco, Virginia and Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where automation of the coal mines followed by the loss of textile jobs to the NAFTA left hundreds of thousands of people with no jobs, crumbling housing, and land on which nothing will grow, to Florida, where farm workers can barely afford to eat the food they pick, to Idaho, where families who have been laid off live in tents along the river in one of the coldest places in the United States. And when we organize, our leaders are arrested, jailed and threatened with life imprisonment, with having our children taken away by the government, with violence by the police. Every day we fear for the lives and freedom of our leaders in this small but growing movement. A movement for economic human rights has been born in the United States and is growing every day. From the tent cities and encampments of the homeless, to the abandoned factory towns and farming communities, from housing takeovers and farm worker camps, to the unemployment offices, closed-down hospitals and impoverished mining towns, we have begun to get organized to demand a dignified life and to reclaim our country. We are determined to organize the massive numbers of people of ALL races who are hurting in our country, and to build a movement, led by the poor, that can reach and organize the American people in an urgent effort to change the priorities and policies of our government.

In last month's Poor People's March for Economic Human Rights across the United States, we carried the struggle of the poor of the U.S., in unity with the poor of the world, into the heart of the empire, to Washington DC. With this march, we organized many more organizations into the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, to form a united voice and movement of the poor and of all workers, employed and unemployed, in the United States. Representing the more than 100 organizations from across the United States that form the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, we marched and caravanned for a month across the poorest region of this country, the South, documenting economic human rights violations committed by the Bush administration, by WTO policies and under agreements such as the NAFTA and the FTAA - from towns like Kannapolis, a town in North Carolina where the entire community is being destroyed with the sudden recent closing of Pillowtex, the 2nd largest textile company in the country which is closing factories across the southern US, to rural Mississippi where farmers are having their land and their homes taken away because of debt. With this month-long march and caravan from the state of Mississippi to Washington, D.C., we demanded the basic human rights to housing, food, water, land, education and health care for all people in the U.S. and around the globe.

On August 23rd, we erected a national encampment on the National Mall in Washington DC, just blocks from the capitol building and the White House, and dubbed it "BUSHVILLE, to make known to the entire world the crimes of the Bush administration, crimes that are being committed not only around the world, but here at home. After a night of harassment by the National Park Service, the tent city was dismantled by the police, and nearly twenty people were arrested. This event was witnessed by representatives of countries around the hemisphere, including the MST - the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil - and members of the COMPA - the Convergence of Peoples' Movements of the Americas, and supported by movements around the world who answered our call for "An International Day of Action in Solidarity with the Movement of the Poor in the United States: A Call for an End to Poverty in the United States and Worldwide." As we begin to build a movement of the poor for economic human rights in the United States, we unite with movements of the poor, of workers, the landless, the homeless, and the unemployed from around the world. We know that our suffering is your suffering; our struggle is the same. Those who are responsible for our misery are the same ones who are responsible for the misery of people around the world - therefore we must be united on an international level.

Despite efforts to keep us from talking to our poor, homeless, landless and unemployed brothers and sisters across the United States and around the world, we know that our lives depend on our talking with each other, our strategizing together, our joining together. We can no longer afford to act as if what is happening to the poor in the United States is different from what is happening to the poor across the Americas and around the world. We can no longer afford to separate our realities and our struggles.

The WTO, like the NAFTA, the FTAA and other such policies, makes the need for our unity all the more imperative - they erase any distinction between the poor, between workers, employed and unemployed, in any country. With these agreements, we have all become one of class of cheap labor, no matter our color or our country. Our lives - all of our lives - depend on our unity. The poor and homeless, the underemployed and the unemployed, can no longer afford to be silenced. In two years the Bush administration, has ransomed our country's future to the imperial ambitions of a radical few, many who have personal ties to big oil companies. The administration's WTO plans would eliminate millions of jobs (more than 3 million have been lost in the last 2 years alone), undermine labor rights, further erode environmental protections around the globe, and force thousands of families off of their land and so we must continue the struggle to ensure that the voices of the long silenced will be finally be heard.

In the coming year, a crucial one for the poor and for workers in our country and around the world, we will continue to fight every day to educate and organize the unorganized majority of the people of the United States. On October 25th, the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign will join in the March on Washington, to protest the war that continues against the poor of Iraq, a war which is also killing our young people and robbing the poor in this country and around the world of a future. This November 17-21 we will be joining people from around the country and around the world at the FTAA Miami Ministerial Meetings, to ensure that those of us in the United States whose very lives are at stake as a result of the NAFTA and the FTAA, are seen and heard. There we will bring the ballots we have collected as part of the hemispheric referendum about the FTAA, which show that the people of the USA are also aware of the dangers of the FTAA and oppose it.

We will continue this struggle next year, when the Poor People's Campaign for Economic Human Rights will lead a national and international POOR PEOPLE'S MARCH on Opening Day of the Republican National Convention in New York City in late August 2004. Please see for more information about our movement and our recent and upcoming plans.

Kensignton Welfare Rights Union/ Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign
PO Box 50678
Philadelphia, PA 19132 USA
Fax: 215.203.1950