Thousands Rally, and Sun Shines At The End, For Massive North Carolina Moral March

By David Bender, People’s World

RALEIGH, N.C. (PAI)–Tens of thousands descended on North Carolina’s state capitol building on Feb. 8 in a Moral March to demand equality for North Carolina’s families, an end to voter suppression and cuts to unemployment benefits, a renewed commitment to women’s rights and education and an end, in general, to the Right-Wing extremism that now dominates the Tar Heel state’s government.

The march, organized by the NAACP, unions and religious leaders, amounted to a dramatic comeback of the many Moral Monday protests that drew national attention to North Carolina for much of the last year.

But there was a difference this time: Those marches drew thousands every Monday.  This one drew at least 80,000 people.

The city was abuzz the night before the march with services and preparations for the massive demonstration.   Over barbeque, Ned and Betsy Kennsington of Durham said the march was their first demonstration since the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s.  They participated because they have seen the far right go off the deep end, with its control of both houses and the governorship of North Carolina.

The Kennsingtons, who have a daughter who is an Unite Here organizer in Connecticut, say it’s no accident the Right Wing got so powerful in North Carolina, because the state is “the least (union) organized state in the nation.”  The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that only 3% of Carolinian workers are union members.

And unless there is a massive mobilization of progressives, the Kennsingtons explain, the Right Wing will stay in a strong position in the Tar Heel State because state legislative district lines are gerrymandered.  “The way the law is drawn up, district lines will not be changed until 2020,” said Betsy.

The Right Wing also moved to consolidate its position by scheming to throw minority voters off the rolls, in a state that was the site of the famous 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-in.

The U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for that move.  It overturned the key section of the U.S. Voting Rights Act that mandates that specific states with a history of legalized voting discrimination – including North Carolina – must get federal pre-approval of any changes in voting laws, legislative districts or other political moves.

Progressives preparing for the march noted the ruling will empower far-right extremists to propose even more repeals and policies that make it still harder to vote.

Rev. William Barber, chair of the North Carolina NAACP, said that as a result, North Carolina’s ruling Republicans passed laws making it harder to vote than in any other state — including notoriously discriminatory South Carolina and Alabama.

North Carolinians are not new to struggles for justice.  The 1960 Greensboro diner sit-in grew from four students who refused to move to the “for colored people” section to 20.  And despite Jim Crow and lynchings, the Voting Rights Act and the civil rights movement were so effective that in 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, an African-American, won North Carolina.  He narrowly lost it in 2012.

But in between those two elections came the 2010 GOP Right-Wing sweep, which produced a Right Wing GOP governor, huge Republican majorities in the legislature and 9-4 GOP dominance of the state’s U.S. House delegation – all of which led to 2013’s marches.

Thus, in Raleigh for the Moral March of 2014, people are coming together of every shade, “making a beautiful mosaic of people of “all ages from carriage to cane,” as one marcher from New York put it.

The signs were as varied as the people themselves: A woman’s right to choose,legalizing medicinal marijuana, saving our public schools, fighting to raise the minimum wage, the right to organize unions, stopping voter suppression, and even “no cuts to the movie industry of Wilmington” were all in evidence.  “We ain’t going back,” was a common theme of the demonstration.

Monica Lewis, 50, who was there with her church group and her two kids, said, “I see communities taking a stand because no one should go hungry, no one should go without health care, and no one should be living in poverty.  Working people living in poverty doesn’t make sense.”

Tre Murphy, 18, came with the National Alliance for Education Justice.  “The way I see it, education is the civil rights issue of our present day and age.  Anything that has to do with jobs has to do with education.  Education is at the root cause in disparities of racial inequality across the nation,” he said.

The GOP-run legislature isn’t listening to him, though.  Currently, bills are being proposed that hurt students and teachers of low-income communities, and that penalize these communities for being poor while rewarding others for being rich.

Britney Jordan, an 18-year-old fast food worker from Durham, said that “$7.25 really doesn’t help pay the bills and if you’re tired of working hard for people that are getting rich off us, join the movement for higher pay.  Together we’re stronger.  It makes a difference.”

Many young workers said they were there for their children.  One father, a Bojangles worker carrying his son on his shoulders, said Obama’s proposal of $10.10 really isn’t enough, “but it will help and if we could get more help it would be a lot better for other families.”

The many thousands marched to the state house, chanting and singing.  People were mixed in a way that must have created some kind of bond:  Atheists were standing next to theists, blacks were marching next to whites.  At the end, Rev. Barber gave a rousing speech, drawing up a five-point plan.

After the speech, the many thousands assembled, tears streaming down many of their faces, and sang “We Shall Overcome.”  Almost prophetically — during the very last verse — the sun broke through the clouds.