RALEIGH – It was ladies’ day at the 11th Moral Monday in Raleigh rallying for women’s rights. 101 people were arrested, bringing the running total to more than 800. The protesters, normally focused on the Republican-led policies of the General Assembly, took a pause to remember Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a Florida man who claimed self defense and was acquitted Saturday.
NAACP State Chapter President and “Civil Disobedience” leader Reverend William Barber explained that he planned to miss Monday’s protest but returned early from the NAACP National Convention after hearing the Zimmerman verdict.
UNC alum Rachael Debnam was there to rally for women’s rights, and also felt a sense of sadness over Zimmerman’s acquittal.
“I find the ruling very frustrating. I feel like it encourages racial profiling. I’m also a teacher, and I think we need to teach our children to think critically and not make snap judgments. The ruling to me says it’s okay to do that, and that’s not a lesson that I am okay with teaching our young people,” Debnam said.
Thousands wore pink as they gathered on the lawn of Halifax Mall. Many carried signs in protest of the state House of Representatives passing tighter abortion regulations in a less than transparent manner.
Barber was the only male speaker at the event, sharing the stage with speakers from N.C. Women United, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, and N.C. MomsRising.
“The sisters are here, the sisters have been here, and I want everyone to know it’s a pro-choice decision,” Barber said.
UNC alum and teacher Alan Carter attended Moral Monday in protest of cuts to education, but he also champions the efforts of pro-choice activists.
“The same people who come out against abortion are often the same people against stuff like sex education and providing coverage for contraception. At that point, I think it’s pretty clear that you are against women making decisions for controlling their own reproductive health,” Cater said.
Anna Currie of the United Church of Chapel Hill said she wasn’t happy with the abortion regulations that were pushed through the General Assembly so quickly by tacking the restrictions onto unrelated bills.
“First of all the process was terrible because none of us knew about it. But, I was one of the ones who fought for women’s rights. I just say get the government out of our body. That’s my decision, my body, and it should be between myself, my family and my doctors and that’s it,” Currie said.
Fellow UCCH member Sharon Hanson held a pink sign which read, “Women Remember in November.”
“Remember who to vote for and who to not vote for in November,” Hanson said.
The UCCH congregation has been attending the Moral Monday protests each week since the beginning of the movement.
“I just want to support the people that are willing to do civil disobedience. I am so impressed with those people. I would love to do it myself, but my health doesn’t allow it,” Tony Armer, a UCCH member, said.
The protests have gained national attention as well. CNN sent a camera crew to this week’s Moral Monday. The New York Times published an editorial last week on the state GOP’s policies with the headline: “The Decline of North Carolina.” N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory responded with a letter to the editor of the newspaper, defending the right-leaning policies, saying, “This focus on pragmatic problem-solving is now fueling North Carolina’s comeback to prosperity as well.”