Moral March advances variety of issues
Posted February 8, 2014 9:44 a.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2014 8:19 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Although they represented different ages, races and geographies, all of those who marched Saturday in downtown Raleigh share a single goal. "Everybody wants a change," said demonstrator Joyce Gresham.
Tens of thousands representing a number of different political and social issues clogged Raleigh's Wilmington and Fayetteville streets for what planners dubbed the "Moral March."
"I think a lot of people in this state from all different socio-economic levels are really fed up with the way things are going," said Jennifer Martin. She came to the march from Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham.
Others made a longer trip. Organizers made no secret of the fact that some of the participants were from outside the Triangle and even outside the state. They requested a permit for up to 20,000 and estimated the turnout at many more. People were bused in for the event from Washington, D.C., and New York City.
The state NAACP, which has organized the event in the past as the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street," renamed it this year to continue the protests against recent North Carolina legislative actions begun last spring. Over the course of three months, more than 900 people were arrested in a series of marches known as "Moral Monday."
"In this moment we cannot be silent. We must speak up," Rev. William Barber urged the assembly. Barber, state president of the NAACP was the key speaker at the rally.
GOP leader blasts protest as "partisan," "fringe"
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope on Friday called the movement "radical left-wing activism" and accused Barber of seeking to "eviscerate" state Republican leaders.
“Barber’s use of inflammatory, divisive and offensive rhetoric has no place in the public arena of ideas,” Pope said.
The state NAACP originated the marches during the Democratic administration of then-Gov. Bev Perdue. The protests should be directed against Democrats who, when in state leadership roles, were both corrupt and inept, Pope said.
Large crowd, many issues
Backers of progressive causes from abortion rights to environmental regulation to expanded early voting were among those gathered Saturday.
Joyce said she hoped the size of the crowd would catch the attention of state lawmakers.
"If they see this crowd, if they are smart, they will listen," she said.
Messages spotted in the crowd included:
- advocates for women's issues and Planned Parenthood protesting what they see as restrictions on abortion,
- representatives of the AFL-CIO backing higher pay for fast-food workers,
- a gay couple from Asheville on hand to protest the state's recent move to define marriage as only between one man and one woman,
- signs advocating the expansion of Medicaid benefits in the state,
- teachers and children demonstrating in favor of higher education funding,
- environmental activists and opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and
- opposition to the new requirement that North Carolina voters show photo ID.
"This is not about liberals versus conservatives," Barber said. "It's about right versus wrong."