COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dozens of protesters with the Poor People’s Campaign demanded increases in public education funding and teacher salaries Monday at the South Carolina Statehouse.
Demonstrators gathered inside the lobby of the Statehouse holding signs that read “End the school-to-prison pipeline” and “Pack em deep, teach em cheap, the SC way.”
English teacher Patrick Martin told the nearly 80 protesters that schools are essential parts of the community and need money for counseling and safety along with education.
“We need help today to fund all these programs,” the 19-year teaching veteran said. “The ones who get hurt the most will be the students, especially the students that live in poverty.”
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After the protest, demonstrators marched several blocks from the Statehouse to South Carolina’s Department of Education building holding a banner that read “Road Closed Due to Injustice.”
They blocked a street only a few steps outside of the state agency and 19 people were arrested.
Minister Amiri Hooker, who was arrested by Columbia police during the demonstration, said public resources are not getting to the people that need it most. He encouraged the crowd to vote in Tuesday’s primary.
“There should be a moral mandate in this country to not put our feet on the poor,” Hooker said. “We’ve got to get out to vote, and we need to do so every time the polls are open.”
The 40-day nonviolent, direct-action national campaign will conclude next week with a rally at the Statehouse. South Carolina campaign coordinator Kerry Taylor said there will be a national gathering in Washington on June 23.
Campaign leaders will determine their next steps for the movement in the state in July, Taylor said.