The rhetoric was lofty; the ideas were big picture.

Equality, freedom, justice and peace. Freedom from fear, it was proclaimed, was the highest aspiration of the common people. There was talk of inherent dignity, human rights and an unequal burden of sacrifice being placed on the lowest and least.

The People’s Campaign for Equality, Jobs and Justice wrapped up a recent social advocacy push that included half a dozen community meetings by unveiling its “People’s Manifesto” to a large crowd in Victoria Park yesterday. The campaign describes itself as a “coalition of concerned people of goodwill who have joined together to give voice to the condition of the country.” The manifesto was framed as a sort of grass roots consensus of concerns on the island. Systemic change is needed, according to the campaign.
Flanked by senior leaders from some of the island’s most influential labour unions, Rev Nicholas Tweed, outlined a progressive political platform that he said addressed the concerns of Bermudians.
The large crowd, dressed mostly in red in honor of International Workers Day, did call and response political sloganeering. They wanted equality and justice and they wanted it now. Enough, the crowd agreed in unison, was enough. There was song and prayer. Bermuda, the crowd was told, needs to reset its moral compass. Martin Luther King Jr. and Shakespeare were among those quoted.

The growing gap between the haves and the have nots  was highlighted, as was the unequal burden of sacrifice being placed on the lowest and the least. Human rights, it was declared, should be protected by the rule of law.

The manifesto detailed a dozen ideas that ran the gamut from progressive tax restructuring to the need to eliminate age discrimination. Post-secondary education should be available to every Bermudian, said Rev Tweed, the pastor of St Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hamilton.

The cost of that education should not be a barrier to anyone, he said. In the crowd, several people held signs aloft. One read: “How do you cut scholarships? Our children must be educated.”

Everyone, said Rev Tweed, should be afforded a livable wage, one that ensures they can have the basics of life: food, shelter and health. Health care should be affordable and accessible to all and everyone should be able to join or form a union if they so choose, he said.

The government, he said, should put market constraints in place to ensure that business shoulders some of the economic burden and “participate in practices that serve the common good”.

The government needs to implement an equitable taxation based on total income and the value of assets and holdings.

Full employment for Bermudians must be a national priority, he said.

“We believe in people power,” he said. “We believe that the people are ready to hold their servants accountable for how they serve.”

Politicians from both parties looked on. After the remarks, the crowd marched through town to present the manifesto to government leaders.