They’ve become a regular sight at the Capitol in recent weeks — protesting poverty, trying to block Gov. Jerry Brown's office and, on occasion, getting arrested.
On Monday, the California Poor People's Campaign, calling for affordable housing and other policies to address poverty, interrupted the state Senate and forced legislators to halt the floor session.
"Nothing feels progressive about the way California is run from the top," said Kait Ziegler, co-chair of the California Poor People's Campaign. "So we're coming from the bottom to mobilize and say we aren't going to be silent anymore."
No protesters were arrested as they sang and chanted from the third-floor gallery of the Senate chambers on Monday. Sergeants-at-arms asked several to leave until the group voluntarily dispersed.
The action marked a contrast to the group's weekly protests that have resulted in 51 arrests since early May. On other occasions, the protesters said they were arrested at the Capitol for ignoring police orders, protesting a statue of Christopher Columbus and blocking access to Brown's office. They also took over a budget subcommittee hearing.
The California Poor People's Campaign has spent the last five Mondays in Sacramento peacefully protesting poverty and calling for legislative reforms to address systemic racism, health care, climate change, housing, education, jobs, homelessness and other issues.
California leaders often boast the state has the fifth-largest economy in the world. Protesters bemoaned the fact that California also has the worst poverty rate in the nation, factoring in cost-of-living expenses.
The action in Sacramento was coordinated with similar campaigns being conducted at more than 30 state capitals across the country. The events mark the 50th anniversary of the Poor People's Campaign and March in Washington, D.C. It was organized by Martin Luther King Jr. before he was assassinated. The group lists dozens of "endorsing partners" in its national effort, including major labor unions such as SEIU and AFSCME, anti-war groups and religious organizations.
"The only way we can do it, because we don’t have money, is to raise our voices and risk arrest," said Kevin Carter, co-founder of the Sacramento Poor People's Campaign. "That’s what we’re here to do."