Thousands at ‘Moral March’ protest NC GOP policies

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

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RALEIGH — Following a year marked by hundreds of arrests and national publicity but few policy victories, leaders of the movement opposing the Republican agenda in North Carolina vowed Saturday to keep fighting and to speak clearly at the ballot box in 2014.

Thousands of people angry with GOP policies approved in 2013 were energized while attending the “Moral March on Raleigh,” the largest gathering of its kind since weekly Monday protests began last spring at the Legislative Building.

“We return to Raleigh with a renewed strength and a renewed sense of urgency,” the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP shouted to a packed crowd that extended three blocks along Fayetteville Street south from the old Capitol building. “This Moral March inaugurates a fresh year of grassroots empowerment, voter education, litigation and nonviolent direct action.”

Raleigh police didn’t give an attendance estimate. Event organizers predicted at least 20,000 people when seeking a permit with the city to march from Shaw University less than a mile. It took more than an hour for the last marchers to reach their destination.

There were no reported arrests. More than 900 people were arrested during more than a dozen protests during the 2013 legislative session in nonviolent opposition to the GOP agenda. Saturday’s event was not intended to include such civil disobedience.

Event organizers said people from more than 30 states planned to attend the rally, a reflection of the spread of the “Moral Monday” protests to nearby Southern states. It was a diverse group of rally participants who chanted, sang and danced at the end, waving placards on topics ranging from campaign finance and education funding to gay rights and abortion rights.

“Someone can say, ‘what can one man or one woman do?” asked Kirkland Carden, 25, a Georgia State University student who traveled overnight with Planned Parenthood organizers to participate. “But when everybody comes here, you get waves like this.”

The NAACP and like-minded advocacy groups have held similar annual winter marches and rallies for the past seven years demanding changes in North Carolina government, but none received the kind of attention as Saturday’s event. Everything changed when the Republican-led General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory passed laws last year opponents call extreme and backward.

Those laws include a refusal to expand Medicaid to more working people under the federal health care law, a photo identification requirement to vote in person, additional abortion rules, taxpayer-funded grants for low-income children to attend public schools and tax changes critics say hurt the poor.

“I mean, this legislature is disgusting,” said Susan Stone, 71, of Black Mountain. She left on a bus at 2 a.m. Saturday from Asheville to attend the rally. She held a sign reading, “Why don’t you care about the least of these — God does!”

Democrats in the General Assembly were largely helpless to stop the laws. McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and allies defended them as promoting a stronger economy, more jobs, better educational opportunities for students in failing public schools and improved confidence in the election system.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or other groups and voters have sued to challenge the elections overhaul law, education tax scholarships and public schools teacher tenure changes. The cases are pending.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said Saturday the NAACP was being hypocritical for directing marchers on a document to bring photo identification when it opposes a photo ID requirement for voting. Lewis helped shepherd a voter ID law through the legislature.

The conservative North Carolina Values Coalition criticized the event beforehand, saying it was being spearheaded by groups that support abortion and gay marriage. The Republican General Assembly put on the ballot a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, which voters approved in 2012.

“The so-called ‘moral march on Raleigh’ is anything but moral,” coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald said in a release.

Barber said Saturday it was the “Moral March” movement that had the high ground on supporting equality and justice for all and would keep working against Republican leaders. He said the NAACP would ramp up a voter registration and education effort in all 100 counties this year while continuing to fight bad laws in court.

“We will encourage voter turnout regardless of party,” Barber told the crowd. Speaking rhetorically to Republican state government leaders, he added later: “You don’t have enough political power to vote us away.”

Attendees, who swayed arm-in-arm while singing “We Shall Overcome” at the rally’s close, went away emotional and enthusiastic.

“This huge demonstration of unity and commitment to each other, it’s a beautiful thing,” said East Carolina University student Demonte Alford, 22, of Laurinburg. “We got our marching orders today.”

Comments

No One

No one was required to have an ID. Stop being idiotic. It was a suggestion in the event there were arrests. I challenge each of you to attend a Forward Together event and learn first-hand what it's about.

I challenge you to stop pulling the race card!

I saw the flier that the NAACP sent out to the ones that were in the march. It read that each person should bring some form of identification have in their belongings. Why would they even think of being arrested if it was a peaceful march? I think you don't see the whole picture. There was so much voting fraud and registration fraud during the 2008 elections that this type of law is needed so that the integrity of voting is upheld. Every law abiding citizen should have access to some form of identification no matter of their race. Felons are not allowed to vote in our country however a felon will be allowed to vote if he or she is not asked to see their identification. This is why we need this law so that unlawful people will not be allowed to vote. This is not a racial issue so stop making it into something it's not. Reverend Barber is brainwashing his minions into believing that everything that he and the NAACP don't agree with is considered a racial issue. Like I said before "I challenge you to stop pulling the race card".

This is the year 2014, right?

It's people like Rev.Barber that are pushing our country in the wrong direction. We are not living in the year 1814 but 2014. If there is a policy that he disagrees with he pulls the race card and wants to protest. Just because he is a Reverend does not mean he is a holy man; it's just a title. Please remember that. About the march in Raleigh: people are marching just because their church told them its a good cause without even knowing what they are marching for. Like Rep. Lewis stated, minorities can produce an i.d. when asked to do something for the Reverend Barber but can't do the same when it's time to vote for the leaders of the state and country. I know they can also produce an i.d. when they go sign up for all the Federal Entitlement Programs including the EBT Card. For years and years, the so-called poor of all races have been taking advantage of the entitlement system of this country. They have have been using it as a profession and not as a temporary fix until they get back on their feet. Some of these poor people are just plain lazy that dont want to work. Why should they if the government is paying for their shelter, their food, their education, their cell phone and their health care. The entitlement program needs to be reformed so these lazy leeches will contribute to society instead of putting our country deeper into debt. And please stop throwing the abortion issue in our faces. There are certain times when an abortion should be used but using it for a means of contraception is not one of them. Their are thousands and thousands of people in this country that cannot have babies that would be wonderful parents but are denied by the system and the child is put into an orphanage and then foster homes. Come on America, Wake up!

so one of the issues

these people are protesting against is having to have an ID to vote. But they are required to bring an ID to protest. You just can't fix stupid.

Did you attend?

This Movement is not simply about Reproductive Freedom, though that is one element. You seem fixated on a single issue without looking at the broader Movement. I'd suggest you attend one of these events so that you will get a more complete picture of what it is about . . .

Yes, God cares.

“Why don’t you care about the least of these — God does!” Marcher Ms. Stone There may be no greater contradiction to the Biblical imperative for life and caring for "the least of these" than abortion; it curses the child to never see the light of day in this world. The Biblical witness is overwhelming in its emphatic teaching that God is working in the womb to bring about life. He is working to turn parents' hearts to their children. These other issues are debatable as to what government policies are best practices; however, the Scripture makes clear, as the early church made clear, that ending an unborn life in the womb cannot be justified before God. It is therefore shameful that leaders of Christian churches are marching to the effect that abortions should be unrestrictively legal. Planned Parenthood marched in force. Their own spokespersons have defended late-term abortions and even infanticide. Many Christians were shoulder to shoulder with ungodly forces in this march. Among their opposition are faithful Christians. The NAACP President the Rev. Barber seems mute regarding the disproportionate percentage of abortions done on black women. By his actions and words, he supports and promotes this. The current government in North Carolina has passed abortion restrictions, and these have led to the life of babies who would otherwise have been aborted. Yet, these same legislators are under attack by Christian congregations and pastors led by the Rev. Barber in the name of Jesus. How can this be? I encourage Christians who participated in this march to check your blind spots and to prayerfully reconsider your support and promotion of abortion...there might be a plank in your eye that needs removing. I also encourage you to stop the vitriolic verbal assaults against Christians who may disagree with you politically. The Rev. Barber has labeled those Christians who disagree with his political agenda as being unjust, unloving and unChristlike; this is simply not acceptable behavior for a Christian leader. Christians' identity in Jesus Christ, Biblical authority and the mandate to love one another should not be subordinate to any other cause or affiliation. Many faithful Christians in Pregnancy Resource Centers across North Carolina fight to save babies' lives, teach parenting skills, and provide for parents and babies once they are born. They daily provide forgiveness and healing to women suffering from the trauma of abortions. This march added fuel to the fire of opposition against these Christian ministries. I have to wonder about the source and effect of "these marching orders."

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