Thousands March in Downtown Raleigh
February 8, 2014
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.”
“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.”
Wake 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.”
The 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.
The procession of marchers Saturday stretched across six blocks for well over an hour, from its starting point at South Wilmington and South streets, turning onto Davie Street and turning again on Fayetteville Street. Raleigh police didn’t release a crowd estimate, but police spokesman Jim Sughrue on Saturday said the march organizers submitted a permit application that planned for 20,000 to 30,000 people. Organizers say last year’s event drew 10,000 people.
The organizers called the event a “Moral March on Raleigh,” but for those on the other side of the political aisle, it is the organizers of Saturday’s march who are unethical.
“The so-called Moral March on Raleigh is anything but moral,” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said in a news release. “It is spearheaded by groups that support abortion and homosexual marriage.”
Dissenters were notably few, but marchers at the beginning of the route were sternly warned by Alan Hoyle of Lincolnton. He was outfitted in a rough burlap garment that covered his red sweatshirt and blue jeans, and he held a sign that read, “Abortion, Adultery, Homosexuality, Sin. Christians Repent. America’s Judgment is Here.”
“God says, you’re already defeated!” Hoyle thundered in response to passing marchers who chanted, “The people united, can never be defeated!”
On the eve of Saturday’s march, N.C. Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope called for a more civil discourse in light of his party’s “overwhelming victory” that put a GOP governor in office and gave the party control of the General Assembly for the first time in 140 years. Pope said that Barber has a right to protest but that he’s protesting on the wrong side. Pope characterized previous Democratic administrations under former Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue as corrupt and inept but said the Republican majority still “welcomes ideas from the other side.”
“What we are saying today is that civil discourse needs to return,” Pope said.
‘Not a small minority’
Leading state Republicans say that they are offended by Barber’s “divisive rhetoric” and that the state NAACP leader has been anointed the de facto head of North Carolina’s Democratic Party.
Pope called on state Attorney General Roy Cooper and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, both Democrats, to clarify whether they endorse Barber’s “far-left agenda.” Cooper is expected to run for governor against McCrory in 2016, and Hagan is up for re-election this year.
“Barber’s ‘moral march’ is nothing more than a partisan political rally endorsed by the Democratic Party and fringe far-left groups like MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood, which have recruited liberal activists from other states to attend (Saturday’s march),” Pope said.
But Mark Peterman, a state employee who lives in Raleigh, said state leaders should realize that the demonstrators do not represent a small minority.
“We want to show the governor and the legislature that we are here to stay,” he said. “As time goes on we need the governor and the legislature to do what is right for all people, not just a small minority of business interests.”
The annual march takes place the second Saturday of February and has grown over the years since it started in 2007. Organizers claim partnerships with 150 groups representing teachers, working families, religious leaders and civil rights advocates.
North Carolina’s New Populist Majority Rallies in the Streets of Raleigh
February 10, 2014
I was honored to be part of a historic and joyful event on Saturday, February 8, as an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 North Carolinians streamed into their capital city from all over their state to participate in a historic Moral March on Raleigh.
As they were filling the long street between Shaw University and the Capitol Building, the chair of the state Republican party, Claude Pope, went on television and called the march organizer, Rev. William Barber II, the “de-facto head of the North Carolina Democratic party.” He meant it as an insult.
But anyone who attended the Moral March on Raleigh came away with a very strong sense that Reverend Barber is leading a movement that is far more profoundly transformative than politics – although it could affect politicians of all stripes this year and for years and decades to come.
What I saw in Raleigh is the culmination of statewide organizing around a “fusion agenda’ for progress that is a model for the nation – and especially for states in the South. This important movement needs and deserves your support.
Check out this coverage from the local ABC affiliate.
Rev. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, responded to Claude Pope attacks by reminding the media that the movement has been building for many years, during which he has held leaders of all parties accountable. “It’s not about a party,” said Barber. “It’s about principle.”
Saturday’s demonstration was the largest single event in a growing campaign of Moral Monday protests starting on April 29, 2012 and continuing all last year against right-wing Republicans who took over the legislature in 2010, with the help of big money from Art Pope, a powerful North Carolina retail mogul who is also the cousin of the Claude Pope quoted above. The new legislature quickly reworked the voting system in their favor and then in 2012 elected Republican Pat McCrory as governor. And McCrory, returning the money favors, installed Art Pope as his budget director (and Claude as the head of the GOP).
There was a sense of desperation in the speed with which the new conservative government imposed their radical agenda – as though they knew that the demographic changes represented in Raleigh’s streets on Saturday represents the wave of the future, and they felt the need to lock in every draconian right-wing policy they could impose on North Carolina before the 21st century caught up with them.
Of course their first move was an attempt to repeal the voting power of the civil rights movement:
- They redistricted the state for future election, aiming to weaken the hard-won power of African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters.
- They imposed a far-reaching voter-suppression law, making it harder for all but the wealthy to vote.
But that wasn’t enough. They quickly imposed the following:
- They imposed crippling restrictions on women’s right to health care and on abortion providers.
- They passed legislation undermining union rights in the private and public sectors.
- They rejected of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, cutting health care for poor people.
- They created an open door for unregulated fracking.
- They made it harder to reconsider death-row sentences even if racial bias in trial could be proved.
- They cut unemployment compensation, throwing away even inadequate federal unemployment compensation funds.
- They cut taxes on the rich, and imposed new tax burdens on the middle class and the poor.
- They cut funds for education, while subsidizing vouchers for privatized schools.
- They have also gone after environmental protection laws.
- And they have undermined the rights of immigrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.
In the past progressives in other Southern states have looked with envy at North Carolina, whose political system has been dominated by business-oriented, forward-looking moderates eager to invest in education and to attract corporations to the state with research universities rather than a crusade to create a low-tax, low-wage, Texas-style race-to-the-bottom business climate. So Progressive North Carolinians were clearly caught unaware as first conservatives took over the legislature and then the governorship.
But Rev. Barber and the NAACP had been steadily building connections between activist leaders and organizations over seven years of organizing. This year’s big demonstration at the capitol was not the first. Initially known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) annual demonstrations, the network of activists Rev Barber had brought together quickly mobilized after the Governor and the legislator began attacking every demographic group but the wealthy – and it blossomed into a movement when the Republican leaders refused to meet with the groups and on April 29 seventeen leaders – seven of them clergy, including Rev. Barber – were arrested outside the General Assembly in an act of civil disobedience. The weekly Moral Mondays protests would grow throughout 2012, with close to 1,000 people going to jail as part of escalating and carefully planned civil disobedience.
Long years of organizing and networking had built trust among groups representing various parts of the North Carolina community. And attacks on “my group” coming at the same time as attacks on “your group” forged stronger bonds. An inclusive People’s Agenda was forged, supported by an impressive list of coalition partners – from faith groups to labor unions to LGBT rights organizations to women’s groups and environmentalists. Look at these two links, which can both be found at http://www.hkonj.com/about. They are models for almost every state coalition in the nation.
The North Carolina movement has only just begun. They plan a full campaign of organizing, outreach, litigation and voter registration and voter mobilization – building up to a midterm election that, in a normal cycle, is usually a time when older and more conservative voters usually dominate. In a state where African-Americans and Hispanics represent 33 percent of the electorate, it takes only 20 percent of the white vote to win elections. And that final piece of the new American electorate can be found among young white voters and poor and working-class voters – along with well-meaning middle-class voters – represented at the march. Many of these groups will be reached intensively as a new Moral Freedom Summer 2014 puts organizers across the state.
There are many aspects of the North Carolina movement that are truly impressive. After many decades during which the feminists and environmentalists and gays and other groups have built their own independent movements, their coming together with African-Americans and Hispanics is generating the kind of cross-cultural learning and mutual appreciation that old guys like me haven’t seen since the 1960s. Most importantly, people are building a movement informed by a deep sense of history.
At a meeting of coalition partners after the march, Rev. Barber declared: “When blacks and progressive whites came together 144 years ago to begin the long journey out of the division of the civil war, the good of the whole state was their vision – a vision that was blown up by racism wielded by the wealthy whose interests were threatened. Their original populist vision is what must guide us now. That higher ground is the way forward. It is the better way.”
At the end of the Raleigh rally, the tens of thousands of white and black and brown people joined hands and together earnestly sang “We Shall Overcome.” When is the last time you did that? And then as the sun came out for the first time – and we danced in the streets of Raleigh.
People everywhere in America can be profoundly inspired by the movement growing in North Carolina.
As everyone in the streets of Raleigh sang out with energy and conviction: “FORWARD TOGETHER. NOT ONE STEP BACK.”
One thought on “Moral March on Raleigh Draws 100,000”
What the CCDS might want to think about is the role of religious organizations in the fusion colaition. Rev. Barber has built the coalition in the South around churches in alliance with environomentalists, labor organizations, women’s advocacy organizations, gay rights organizations and University folks. The Black Church was the mainstay of the Civil Rights movement, and is now united with main line Protestants, and the left of the Catholics, The churches have contacts with the social movements and brought it was church people who helped glue the fusion. Rev. Barber was touring the country talking to denominational leaders about support for some time. The Churches and the NAACP are bringing fushion to other states in the South. The local activists think the movement will shift the South in a progressive direction over time.
The fusion coalition consciously is “non partisan” which meant no Democratic Party signage or speeches were encouraged. The NAACP and Church based monitors would have extended that no party signage to socialists, since the churches and Southern labor would shy away from the march if such contingents were present. CCDS would need to think how it could relate to sucha fusion coalition.