Pictured: Congressman David Price at Mass Moral Monday
RALEIGH – United States Congressman David Price spoke to more than a thousand protesters at Mass Moral Monday in Raleigh. The North Carolina NAACP’s demonstrations have grown from a local effort to a state-wide movement which is now garnering national attention. This week 120 were arrested, bringing the total to more than 550 since the protests began in late April.
“It’s just a combination of what is happening in our state which is so beyond normal politics or normal changes. This is a real wrecking crew; this is Tea Party extremism. It’s denying people health insurance. It’s out to destroy public education. It’s putting up barriers for the right to vote, and on and on it goes,” Price said.
Price represents the 4th District in North Carolina, which encompasses Orange, Durham, and Chatham Counties, among others. He joined representatives from the AFL-CIO of North Carolina, and a number of other labor and women’s organizations, to protest the policies of the Republican-controlled legislature.
The rally, which moved inside the General Assembly where the arrests were made, focused a decision by the NC lawmakers to cut federal unemployment benefits. More than 70,000 residents will be affected when the measure goes into effect on July 1.
“This is North Carolina; this is the state that we’ve thought of as the guiding light of the new South. But now North Carolina seems to be just determined to go right there to the bottom,” Price said.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently said the Moral Monday Movement was made up of “outsiders” and not natives of North Carolina. A UNC study determined 98 percent of protesters were residents of the state.
“It’s a grassroots movement and gets bigger every week, and I just felt like I had to show support,” Price said.
Though the rallies are due to the efforts of North Carolinians, they are gaining the attention of national media outlets, such as FOX News and MSNBC. The networks sent multiple cameras crews to cover the event.
NAACP state chapter president and protest leader Reverend William Barber asked Price to join him on the stage, as well as other state leaders who were in attendance, including NC Representative Verla Insko and NC Senator Ellie Kinnaird.
“One of the most important things is we need to get the word to the public about what is happening in the Legislature and the damage they are doing. For me personally, it’s 16 years of my work just being destroyed,” Kinnaird said.
Kinnaird, who has attended many of the protests, said she’s concerned about legislation that’s already been passed and is also going through the General Assembly.
“We’re just going down the tubes in terms of environmental justice, racial justice, and social justice. We’re taking giant steps backwards when we need to be moving forward from where we were and not backwards at all,” said John, a resident of Chapel Hill, who chose not to give his last name for fear of jeopardizing his job.
John was arrested Monday, along with Marybeth Powell of Carrboro.
“I really had to go out on a limb and do this today because I really wanted to take a stand and make a statement that I’m just tired of these policies. This is my right as a citizen to express my displeasure. I would encourage anyone to come and see democracy in action. It’s pretty powerful,” Powell said.
Powell said she was pleased to see Congressman Price in attendance, along with other elected state and local leaders representing Orange County.
“I think that’s a nice show of support from our federal officials to come stand with us,” Powell said.
Fredy Perlman is self-professed anarchist who lives in Chapel Hill. He said this was his first Moral Monday protest.
“I’m excited that people are organizing around and putting the people’s power in action. People are taking it to the streets and disobeying the law and are trying to stand up for what they think is right,” Perlman said.
Barber issued a call for another Mass Moral Monday to take place next week. He’s promised the protests will continue even after the General Assembly ends its regular session this summer.