Moral March on Raleigh Draws 100,000

Thousands March in Downtown Raleigh

Thomasi McDonald
News Observer
February 8, 2014

Moral March on Raleigh Feb. 8 th
Moral March on Raleigh Feb. 8 th

RALEIGH — State NAACP President William J. Barber II laid out goals for a diverse coalition of groups Saturday afternoon at a rally attended by thousands of people from all over the state and the nation who marched, sang, chanted, cheered and even danced through downtown Raleigh.

Organizers said the “Mass Moral March” was intended to push back against last year’s Republican-led legislation in North Carolina.

Barber called for well-funded public education, anti-poverty policies, affordable health care for all that includes the expansion of Medicaid, an end to disparities in the criminal justice system on the basis of class and race, the expansion of voting rights and “the fundamental principle of equality under the law for all people.”

Rev. Barber (back) addresses Moral March
Rev. Barber (back) addresses Moral March

“We will become the ‘trumpet of conscience’ that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called upon us to be, echoing the God of our mothers and fathers in the faith,” he said. “Now is the time. Here is the place. We are the people. And we will be heard.”

The mammoth crowd that gathered in downtown Raleigh represented a variety of causes that joined last year’s Moral Monday protests, but the event also brought in groups and individuals usually on the fringes of state politics.

Susan Fariss of Mocksville drove three and a half hours to hold up a sign supporting the legalization of medical marijuana.

“I have several health problems that cause me pain,” Fariss said. “I have tried Vicodin and different muscle relaxers, but no matter what I’ve tried, I’m in pain. My doctor told me he could not prescribe it, but he recommended medical marijuana.”

Holiday Clinkscale, 60, of Raleigh climbed atop a big potted plant on Fayetteville Street and twirled an American flag above his head. He wore a leather jacket decorated with red, white and blue stars and stripes. Clinkscale wore the regalia on behalf of “depressed” African-American men.

“Black men in Raleigh couldn’t wear red, white and blue after the Civil War when we were freed, or they would have been executed,” he said. “You see a lot of black men here today looking depressed.”

mm9Wake County attorney Daryl Atkinson was at the march, but the look on his face was one of purpose.

Atkinson, who volunteered to represent some of the people arrested at last year’s Moral Monday protests, said he had a long list of reasons for attending the rally.

“Everything from trampling on our voting rights, to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, not extending unemployment benefits and not expanding Medicaid. The list goes on,” he said.

Hannah Osborne, a student at N.C. State University, said she came to the rally Saturday morning to “promote women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose.” She and her father, Dale Osborne, a pastor at Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, held purple signs that read “Stop the war on women.”

mm3The march, known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKonJ, was organized by the state NAACP and Barber. He and his group drew national attention last year for organizing the Moral Monday demonstrations to protest what they called “immoral” legislation enacted by Republican leaders including Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis. Those policies included new abortion restrictions, an election-law overhaul that will require voter ID and cuts to unemployment benefits.

The McCrory administration tried to block previous Moral Monday events. In late December, a Wake County District Court judge overturned a decision by the administration to keep demonstrators off state Capitol grounds and confine the events to Halifax Mall, a big grassy area enclosed by the state office and legislative buildings.

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