State News

NAACP spearheads march to state Legislative Building

Posted February 14, 2009 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2010 7:20 a.m. EST

— Activists involved in dozens of advocacy groups traveled to the state Legislature and urged lawmakers to pass a "people's agenda" this year.

The state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led the annual "Historic Thousands on Jones Street" march Saturday in Raleigh. Jones Street refers to the Legislative Building's address, where the march ended.

The event promotes a 14-point action plan that includes expanding health care coverage, protecting immigrants' rights and granting collective bargaining rights for public employees.

"We’re tired of being gagged, and that's why we're all wearing these yellow gags. We’re here to say that we want a voice,” said Angaza Laughinghouse, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 150 state president.

Labor, environmental, women's rights and a Gates County group – battling to keep the Navy from building an outlying landing field (OLF) for its jets near their homes – joined together during the march. Many said the gathering brings hope to their message.

"It does, and it's really brought the people of our county together, and that's a good thing. We're trying to see some good from all the turmoil this is causing,” said Laura Dickerson, spokeswoman for Citizens Against OLF.

The Rev. William Barber is the state NAACP chapter president. He said the voters who turned out in record numbers for the November elections want change to occur.

"Why don't we just focus on one thing? Well, freedom isn't spelled with one letter," Barber told the crowd.

Also in the crowd Saturday was a Wilson man who is getting support from the NAACP. James Johnson, 22, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the slaying of Brittany Willis, a 17-year-old who was kidnapped, robbed, raped and shot to death on June 28, 2004.

Barber says the state needs to restore faith in a justice system that wrongfully jailed Johnson.

Johnson was detained for more than three years on charges of murder, rape and kidnapping before he was released on a reduced bond in September 2007.

In December 2007, a special prosecutor dismissed those charges, but a grand jury indicted Johnson on the lesser accessory charge in January 2008.

Another man, Kenneth Meeks, pleaded guilty to Willis' slaying and is serving a life sentence in prison.

Johnson's trial begins on Monday.