RALEIGH – NAACP protesters and other activists —including some from Chapel Hill— say the “wave of civil disobedience” won’t stop until they feel their voices have been heard by the NC General Assembly.
More than 50 people have been arrested so far and more may follow.
NAACP NC State Chapter President William Barber led the rally Tuesday night at the Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh. Due to forecasted inclement weather, it was moved from outside of the General Assembly.
“In the face of 500,000 North Carolinians not getting health care, where is your voice now? In the face of unemployed workers getting hurt more, where is your voice now?” Barber said.
Participants prayed, held a candle lit vigil, and sang several songs together.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP chapter members will took part in the rally—including Bishop Larry Reid of Cathedral of Hope Mission Church in Carrboro.
“Tonight was not only a re-gathering but a re-grouping. We have a better understanding of what we are trying to make happen,” Reid said. “We have a lot of new faces in the audience and a lot of new faces that are coming out to support us and a ready to stand with us.”
One of those new faces was Chapel Hill resident Bert Gurganus.
“It’s not that hard to stand-up and say ‘I’ve had enough,’” Gurganus said.
He was there as a concerned citizen and also to represent the organization Occupy Health and Wellness NC.
Gurganus is a general contractor in Carrboro—his business is Space Builders construction company.
“They are trying to roll back our environmental protection which to me are the foundations for good life,” Gurganus said.
He also believes that this recent wave of state legislation is regressive.
“What I see happening in our state is antithetical to democracy and good sense,” Gurganus said.
Reid says that with each protest—people from a wider range of backgrounds are showing up.
“People continually misunderstand what the fight is about—the fight is really about the people,” he said.
Reid says state legislation—from restrictions on voting rights, to budget cuts in public education, to the rejection of federally-funded Medicaid expansion— could negatively affect a large number of North Carolinians.
“Take a strong look at what the legislature is putting out,” he said. “When you look deeper and deeper, you’ll find that it is cutting at the core of humanity.”
Barber spent a good part of his speech talking about legislation like Bill 589, entitled the Voter Information Verification Act. It passed in the House in April and requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. Members of the NAACP view the bill as a form of poll tax.
“So you have a group in this general assembly that’s going against their own progressive history—they are going against history where they agreed that we need to expand voting rights,” Barber said.
Barber also spoke against Senate Bill 667, Equalize Voter Rights, that could prevent parents from claiming their kids as dependents for tax exemptions if their kids are registered to vote at any address other than the parents’ home address.
A noteworthy attendee was one of the state legislator’s own—NC Senator Earline Parmon of Forsyth County.
Reid and Barber say there will be another protest outside the General Assembly this coming Monday.