Pastor Wins 'Genius Grant' and is Arrested the Same Day Outside McDonald's Headquarters

By Rob LaRosa from Las Vegas, NV, USA (McDonald’s Headquarters) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Pastor Barber has been arrested 15 times.

Unlike other winners of the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Reverend William J. Barber II was hard to get hold of. The North Carolina pastor known for his progressive Christian views was arrested on October 4 in front of McDonald's headquarters in Chicago. The police arrested the 55-year-old while he protested against the corporate behemoth along with fast food workers fighting to secure union rights and increase the minimum wage. Being arrested is not new for Barber. He has been arrested at least 15 times during his activist career.

Barber is one of America's most prominent public advocates combating poverty and racism. He has successfully organized thousands of people to participate in marches. He is also an active participant in multiple civil disobedience acts all over the United States. MacArthur announced his name among a list of 25 winners. The Foundation included him in the list as a person who is on the brink of a revolutionary discovery or a radical new idea. Upon being contacted by the media, he confirmed being arrested by Chicago law enforcement. He said he is waiting for the paperwork.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation said Barber was awarded the prize for his work to expand health care, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, and public education rights. He has also been noted for his work on voting rights and increasing the living wage. The Foundation noted that the pastor had launched multiple rallies in 2013, under the name Moral Mondays. They noted that his movement has been successful in combating legal challenges to suppress voters and efficiently combated racial gerrymandering. He has also made a substantial contribution to education and voter registration.

If anything defines Barber, it is his continuous and never-ending fight against the oppressive powers-that-be. He founded the training organization "Repairers of the Breach" in 2014. In 2017, the pastor worked with multiple organizations and people to revive a campaign which was last helmed by the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, the 1968 era Poor People's Campaign. Even though Barber is frequently described as an important voice of the religious left, the man himself resists such labeling. He sees his struggles as a kind of effort to introduce justice and morality back into society. He has repeatedly said the fight is not about capitalism; it is about the shared humanity.


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