Winning Moral Monday

CHAPEL HILL – Last weekend, the “Moral Monday” movement entered its second year in a big way, as tens of thousands of North Carolinians—hundreds from Orange County alone—gathered in Raleigh for one of the largest civil rights rallies in the South in decades.

The march was electrifying, and it gathered national attention. But is that enough? At what point can we declare “Moral Monday” to have been a success?

How do you measure a movement?

Participation

“My estimation was about 25,000,” says Ashley Melzer, who was gauging attendance for Planned Parenthood. “We counted one little chunk of a building—there were 50 rows with an average of 35 people (each)—so we tried to eyeball what that might be all the way down the street. There were certainly areas that were denser, so it could have been more like 30,000.”

If Melzer is correct, then the so-called “Moral March” was the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965, nearly half a century ago. (And those marches peaked at 25,000—so last Saturday’s rally might have even been bigger than that.)

Whatever the final attendance, though, one thing is clear: the “Moral Monday” movement has exceeded all expectations, taken on a life of its own, and shows no signs of slowing down. Americans are notoriously apathetic when it comes to politics—but “Moral Monday” has spurred tens of thousands of North Carolinians to take to the streets, many even risking arrest. And while those people were certainly motivated by the policies enacted last year by the General Assembly, they didn’t all take to the streets organically based on those policies alone. It was also the movement itself—the active mobilization—that played a major role.

But is that enough? Can we, today, declare “Moral Monday” to have been a success, just on the strength of that mobilization?

Some local leaders say yes. “The big success is how widespread it has been and how it’s captured so many different people’s attention,” says activist Allison DeMarco. Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson agrees: “People are showing up to these rallies, (and) that’s surprising me—so I think it’s already a success from the amount of people that are connecting to it.”

Orange County Commissioners Penny Rich and Mark Dorosin add that the measure of success isn’t just the number of people in attendance, but their diversity. “I think down the road, when you go back in history and you look at this movement, you’re going to see that it was successful because it drew in so many people,” says Rich. “It wasn’t just the NAACP, it wasn’t just the women’s rights (advocates), it wasn’t just the environmentalists, it wasn’t just the teachers—everybody came to the table.”

Dorosin agrees: “It’s brought together such a diverse collection of North Carolina residents, so committed and concerned about the future of our state and what’s happening right now. By at least a basic measure of civic engagement and bringing together diverse interests for the common good, I think the movement’s already succeeded.”

Ashley Melzer goes further, saying success is not just about the big attendance at the big marches—but rather about how well the movement can motivate individuals to get involved on their own.

“I think what’s going to make or break the movement are the people who by themselves call a State Senator, or by themselves send a letter, or by themselves talk to their neighbor about voting,” she says. “It’s not going to be the big picture moments…it’s going to be the small people who maybe don’t get written up in the newspaper, who do it on behalf of this movement.”

Elections

But Melzer’s argument there speaks to a larger point. Increasing participation is an impact in itself—and certainly an important one, especially given that “Moral Monday” was initially a response to the new voter ID bill. But participation alone doesn’t seem to constitute success: the Occupy movement drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets, but it’s harder to argue that Occupy was successful—because it’s harder to identify how it effected real change in government.

It’s that “change” that the Moral Monday protesters say they’re after—including a change in the makeup of the General Assembly.

“The most important thing we have to do is work on voter registration, get the vote out, and change the face of the legislature,” says Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene.

County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier agrees. “This movement is not about changing what this current General Assembly does—success means that the people of North Carolina will come out and vote for individuals who will promote policies that are just and morally right,” she says. “And so success means that some of the people who are now in office in the GA need to be voted out of office. That’s what real success will be.”

But winning elections is going to be an uphill battle too, at least in the short term. Not only has redistricting solidified the Republican majority in the state legislature; it’s also President Obama’s sixth year in office—and the President’s party historically loses seats in that year’s election. (Beyond that, researchers have also found that social movements are less likely to succeed when their number-one goal is just to “kick the bums out”: it’s very difficult to remove people from power, even in the best of circumstances.)

But as State Representative Graig Meyer observes, even elections are only a means to an end. “We (in the ‘HK on J’ movement) have been marching for long enough that it goes back to when Democrats were in control of the GA,” he says. “So it’s not about who holds control of the government—it’s about what our government (does).”

Policy (and Perception)

Most of the people I spoke to agree with Meyer: the movement’s success, they say, depends ultimately on whether the General Assembly enacts their policy goals.

“Elections themselves are an important litmus test,” says Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow, “but elections are important because those elections dictate the policies that are passed.”

Michelle Johnson agrees. “Twenty years from now,” she says, “if we have policies that are actually going to support poor folks to get out of poverty, and to allow (everybody) access to voting…and (guaranteeing women) control over their bodies—once we see these things turning around, that’s the success.”

Others take the argument one step further.

“It just seems like decisions are being made that are so extreme, so extremely outside of what mainstream North Carolina wants, that I think to pull it back toward the middle—where it has actually been for decades—would be much more reflective of our state as a whole,” says Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle.

CHCCS Board member James Barrett adds: “I think for several decades, North Carolina was a progressive leader in the South, and in just the last couple years we have really turned back to a direction that doesn’t reflect the values that we have. I think success will be if we’re able to turn that tide and get back to moving our state forward.”

Sally Greene says that turn from progressivism left her “heartbroken.” “I moved to North Carolina almost 30 years ago because it was a progressive Southern state,” she says. “Raleigh wasn’t Montgomery, and Chapel Hill wasn’t Philadelphia, Mississippi. On the other hand, I knew about the Greensboro Four, I knew about Jim Hunt, Terry Sanford, Bill Friday. I was coming to a progressive Southern state…

“That’s the state that we have lost, and it breaks my heart, and I want to do what I can to take it back.”

Those are important points for the movement—because success is often about perception as much as policy. Notice the point Lavelle and Barrett and Greene all make, that the General Assembly today is outside the mainstream of North Carolina politics. That’s key. The sociologist Paul Burstein argues that social movements can succeed either by changing public opinion itself or by changing how elected officials perceive public opinion. “Moral Monday” seeks to do both: on the one hand, it’s trying to change hearts and minds—but on the other, it’s asserting that it doesn’t need to change hearts and minds, that “mainstream” North Carolinians already support the policies it’s calling for. (That’s why activists on both sides have fought so vigorously over whether “Moral Monday” is an “outsider” movement. Are the protestors mostly from out of state, coming here to tell us what we ought to think? Or are they native North Carolinians, stepping up to tell us what they already believe?)

Mark Dorosin captures the idea nicely: “I think the legislature is going to recognize that this is a movement of real North Carolinians, grassroots folks from around the state, (and) that they can’t be pigeonholed as outsiders or extremists,” he says. “And I think that policies will reflect that.”

Patience

Of course, Republicans in the General Assembly generally say they aren’t convinced the “Moral Monday” movement represents the mainstream. (Debunking the “outsider” argument didn’t have much of an effect.) So success, on a policy level, is still likely to be a long-term goal. That’s often the case with social movements, though—and those who turned out for last Saturday’s march say they’re both resigned to that reality and resolved to see it through.

“I spoke (at the rally) with several people who had protested the Vietnam War…and I think we all realized that while it took a long time, it did ultimately change American policy,” says County Commissioner Barry Jacobs. “The long view is probably the best view, considering that the legislature has written itself into office for much of the rest of the decade.”

Penny Rich agrees. “You have the General Assembly who are making a joke out of this,” she says. “They’re thinking that it’s not serious, they’re calling it left-wing propaganda. But when you have that many people show up on a Saturday morning…it’s not a joke anymore. Even though (they) might want to paint (it) as a failure, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think people are going to let up.”

“We just need to be patient,” adds Michelle Johnson.

But if those policy gains are going to be years in the making, we’re back to the original question: how do you measure a movement? Is “Moral Monday” succeeding where Occupy failed? (For that matter, can we even write off Occupy?) It’s hard. Academic research on social movements is limited, and even within that subfield there’s very little agreement on what constitutes “success.” The sociologist William Gamson argues that a movement succeeds if it wins “new advantages”—or in other words, if it achieves its stated policy goals. In the case of “Moral Monday” there are quite a few: repeal of the voter ID law; increased teacher salaries and funding for public education; extension of Medicare and unemployment benefits; expanded power for local governments to set their own policies; and the repeal of laws restricting women’s reproductive freedoms—for starters. Of course all of those are going to be difficult to achieve.

But it’s not impossible. Republicans in the General Assembly don’t seem to have wavered too much from their platform, but Mark Dorosin points out that they do seem to have pulled back on at least one issue.

“They’re going to raise teacher salaries,” he says, “(and) I don’t think that would have happened had it not been for the Moral Monday movement. So I think we’re already seeing the successes, even beyond just organizing and engaging folks.”

Morality

And maybe even that “new advantages” standard is too narrow. Sociologists Edwin Amenta and Michael Young say it’s not just about whether a movement achieves its stated goals—it’s about whether life gets better for the people it represents. (Their standard is called the “Collective Goods Criterion.”)

With that in mind, it’s worth noting one argument that kept coming back among all the people I spoke with. “Moral Monday” isn’t just about policy, they said—it’s about promoting a worldview, one of solidarity, togetherness, and mutual respect.

In other words: it’s about morality. Both on a societal and an individual level.

“I think the movement’s success will be judged by positive change and whether or not people feel more of their basic needs are being met,” says Alicia Stemper, “and (whether) we’re all taking care of each other.”

Annette Stone agrees: “There’s a shift back to something a little bit more moderate,” she says (that ‘turn back to the mainstream’ idea again), “that we as a people pick up our social hats and put them on and think about other people more, and be willing to share and help other people—as opposed to being the Me, Just Me, kind of society.”

And Carrboro Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell says that shift is part of a larger trend. “I think America is shifting culturally,” she says, “and this is what the transition looks like…(and) we will see this as one of those seminal points of pushing back, so that the emergence of the new culture can come forth.”

And if that’s the case—if the movement has as much to do with how we learn to treat each other as it does about state-level policy—then the success of “Moral Monday,” if it comes, will come not just from what they do in Raleigh…but also from what we do in Chapel Hill.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/winning-moral-monday/

“Moral March” Draws Tens Of Thousands

Each year on the second Saturday in February, the North Carolina NAACP holds a march called “Historic Thousands on Jones Street”—“HK on J” for short.

Usually it draws a few thousand people. But this year, tens of thousands converged on Raleigh—hundreds from Orange County alone—for what became the largest civil rights rally in recent U.S. history. All to carry on a movement that’s still less than a year old—and showing no signs of slowing down.

Listen to the full report (in two parts), from WCHL’s Aaron Keck with comments from 13 Orange County residents and elected officials.

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They came by the hundreds from Orange County, by the thousands and the tens of thousands from across the state and across the South—and they all came with a purpose that was both widely varied and steadfastly united.

“I marched for social justice,” said Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier.

“I marched because I believe in a moral politics,” said newly appointed State Representative Graig Meyer.

“I marched because I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle.

“I loved what Rev. Barber said about ‘everybody wants a moral universe,’” said Alicia Stemper, “and I marched to make my statement that I too want to live in a moral North Carolina.”

“I marched because I’m a strong proponent of social and environmental justice, education–I’m an educator–and for universal health care coverage and access to health care,” said Carrboro Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell.

“I marched for the values that OC holds dear: education, (the) environment, equity, women’s rights, voting rights, (and) the rights of people to be represented by their state government in a real way,” said Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs.

And County Commissioner Penny Rich said she marched for a lot of things. “I marched mainly for women,” she said, “(and) I also marched for education…I marched because I believe in equal rights for equal love…I marched because I think it’s important that municipalities and counties maintain their own rights to govern…

“(And) I marched because, as a parent of two boys in North Carolina, it’s my job to make sure that their home is always someplace they want to come home to, and not move away from.”

They called it the “Moral March,” a continuation of the weekly “Moral Monday” demonstrations that galvanized progressives against the GOP-led General Assembly last year. Organizers expected about 10,000 to show—but as more and more busloads kept coming in, it became quickly apparent the final tally would be much higher.

Ashley Melzer was on hand to take pictures for Planned Parenthood. “When I first got up to the parking deck, there was no one there,” she said. “(But) when it got to be 10:30 or 11:00, all of a sudden there were people on every level, looking out (and) waving flags, everywhere.”

On the street, Town Council member Sally Greene arrived on one of two buses sent by the Community Church of Chapel Hill. “There were Unitarians from all over the country there,” she said. “We got over to Raleigh and emerged from the buses, and all of these banners that the Unitarians were carrying were orange banners with their slogan of ‘Standing on the Side of Love.’”

Randee Haven-O’Donnell was lucky enough to find a spot near the front. “There were hordes of people, crowds and crowds of people behind us,” she said. “There was a real sense of togetherness.”

Further back, Allison DeMarco was a veteran of several “HK on J” rallies—but never anything like this. “There were lots of people around us, young and old, and from all over–I saw buses from Goldsboro, there was a guy behind me who was coming down from Hertford–so it was really neat to see all these people gathering together,” she said.

For Annette Stone of Carrboro, the rally was a family experience. “My daughter was with me,” she said. “When I said what I was doing, she said ‘I want to be there too.’”

And Graig Meyer had meetings in Orange County that morning—but made it to Raleigh just in time.

“When I got to Fayetteville Street and saw the marchers coming the other way, and how many of them there were–it was a big blast of excitement in my face,” he said. “It was pretty amazing.”

I spoke with more than a dozen Orange County residents this weekend, regular folks and elected officials and everyone in between. They’d all been to Raleigh. They’d all come back energized. They all had their own unique experiences and their own unique reasons for marching—but in keeping with the intended spirit of the “Moral Monday” movement, they said those differences only made the whole experience stronger.

That’s a sentiment Ashley Melzer shared with County Commissioner Penny Rich and Town Council member Lee Storrow.

“(I was impressed by) all these different organizations working together, and all these different people: there were babies, there were old people, seeing a rabbi speak, and then an imam, and then hearing the reverend, people of different faiths,” said Melzer. Rich noted the wide variety of interest groups on hand: “I saw Carolina Jews for Justice, the NAACP, the teachers, (and) the women’s groups,” she said.

Storrow agreed, adding that the feeling of “collectively working together was, I thought, really empowering and really energizing.”

That in fact is the idea–at least according to the leader of the movement, NAACP state chapter president Rev. William Barber, whose speech on Saturday focused on the connections between all the disparate issues that have moved progressives to take to the streets.

“Reverend Barber speaks so eloquently of all the issues, in a way that encourages everybody from all walks of life to participate,” said County Commissioner Pelissier.

Carrboro Mayor Lavelle agreed. “(Rev. Barber’s speech) practically made your heart stop,” she said. “He spoke quite a bit about how this wasn’t necessarily a Democratic or a Republican issue, this wasn’t necessarily a conservative-versus-liberal issue, this wasn’t an us-versus-them issue, this was a North Carolina issue.”

Lavelle was only one of many Orange County elected officials on hand Saturday. Orange County’s elected officials have been vocal in support of the “Moral Monday” movement from the beginning, and Saturday was no exception: the crowd at “HK on J” included several Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, a majority of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, nearly half the Chapel Hill Town Council, and nearly all of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

County Commissioner Barry Jacobs and Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson both said they felt duty-bound as elected officials to be there.

“We all know that we’re under assault from a state legislature and a governor who have very little respect for many of the values we hold dear in Orange County,” Jacobs said, “and it was good to see people actually go to the streets in Raleigh, as part of a larger group, to say that we stood with our fellows.”

Johnson concurred. “The way that things are being run–this isn’t the way that I want to represent the folks that elected me,” she said. “And I feel like it’s imperative for me to be connected to a movement that’s bringing light to what’s really happening.”

Those elected officials joined hundreds of other Orange County residents, amidst a crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands. How large was the crowd? It’s always difficult to say. A press release from the NAACP estimated the crowd at 80,000-100,000, but that number’s likely inflated; Melzer says she estimated the crowd to be about 25,000-30,000, and Meyer said he guessed about 40,000.

One thing is certain: it was a larger crowd than anyone expected, and far more than any previous “HK on J” march had ever drawn. An article in The Nation magazine called it the largest civil rights march the South had seen since the 1960s. And maybe even that’s an understatement. To put the estimates into perspective: the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 peaked at 25,000.

“I think for every person there, each person probably represented two or three other people who had a work commitment or a kid’s soccer game or wanted to be there and couldn’t,” observes Alicia Stemper, who was also in attendance Saturday (with her partner Lavelle). “So just the sheer numbers (were) impressive.”

Regardless of the actual attendance figures, Saturday’s event was truly historic—and Orange County residents played a major role. Whether the movement will have an effect on actual policy in North Carolina remains to be seen, of course—but everyone I spoke to said they’re hopeful that a change is going to come.

“We sent a message to the State House, and we also sent a message to one another,” said Greene. “It was like no other experience to be in a crowd of that size.”

Lavelle too says the march has her feeling optimistic, in spite of everything. “Even though there’s so much despair in North Carolina about what’s been happening…surely there are people in the General Assembly who see some of the very valid points that we’re making,” she said. “And I felt like it was a demonstration that had to happen–that it was one of those days that was just really, really important.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/moral-march-draws-tens-thousands/

Orange County Gears Up For HKonJ “Moral March On Raleigh”

ORANGE COUNTY -  Activists here in Orange County and across North Carolina are gearing up for the annual Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HKonJ) rally happening this Saturday in Raleigh. This year, the event is expected to bigger than ever, combining forces with the Moral Monday protest movement.

Former Mayor of Carrboro, Mark Chilton, has participated in several HKonJ marches. He was arrested last year on June 3rd during the demonstration dubbed “Mega Moral Monday,” protesting against what he called the “regressive policies” of the North Carolina General Assembly.

“This is the most enthusiasm, the most serious organizing effort I have ever seen going into it. It is definitely going to be the biggest HKonJ ever,” Chilton said.

Formed in 2006, HKonJ is an N.C. NAACP-affiliated group, and a march takes place each year on the second Saturday in February. The Moral Monday protests were also organized by the NAACP.

Activities kick off at 9:30 a.m. on Shaw University’s campus.

“The Moral March on Raleigh” begins around 10:30 a.m. when the group departs for the State Capitol Building for a mass assembly.

“We are all terribly concerned about what the state legislature is doing to North Carolina right now, and that is the single biggest motivator,” Chilton said.

Randy Voller, Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and Former Mayor of Pittsboro, attended many Moral Monday protests during the summer of 2013, as well as several past HKonJ marches.

He watched as close to a thousand people were arrested inside the General Assembly, protesting against legislation which they believed hurt the poor and minority groups, and negatively impacted women’s rights and education, among other issues.

“You’ve got to have a point for people to organize and that is what Moral Mondays became. It was a chance for people to express their displeasure and to essentially show that we care about our community and our state and to show these elected officials that these decisions have consequence,” Voller said.

Called “a fusion movement,” a diverse group advocacy organizations plan to share their message Saturday.

”You will feel that people are concerned, and you are going to get a strong feeling that this energy will translate into action,” Voller said.

Chilton added that his fellow members of “The Orange County Five” are attending the Moral March on Raleigh.

That group includes Carrboro Alderpersons Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Sammy Slade, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell. They were arrested on June 3rd along with Chilton.

“We are all going to be there, and we are definitely feeling a lot of solidarity hanging together,” Chilton said.

This event is special for Chilton for another reason. With out his prompting, he said his son decided to rally his fellow high schoolers to make the trek to Raleigh.  Chilton said he is carpooling the young activists Saturday morning.

 ______________________________

Thirteen Moral Mondays were held in Raleigh from late May until the end of July in 2013, and 24 local Moral Mondays were held across the state.

Georgia held its own Moral Monday in January, inspired by the movement happening in North Carolina.

XXX

Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP transportation information.

West Chatham County NAACP transportation information.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/orange-county-gears-moral-march-raleigh/

“Orange County Five” Trial For Moral Monday Arrests Postponed

WAKE COUNTY - “The Orange County Five’s” trial date for their arrests during a Moral Monday protest last summer in Raleigh, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning, has been postponed.

Former Mayor of Carrboro Mark Chilton, Carrboro Alderpersons Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Sammy Slade, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell were slated to appear in a Wake County court, but an on-going, separate trial of a group of Moral Monday protesters pushed their trial back.

A new date for the OC Five will be set on February 18th, their lawyer, Mark Dorosin, confirmed.

The group of elected officials were arrested on June 3, 2013, during the event called “Mega Moral Monday.”

Dorosin, who is also an Orange County Commissioner and civil rights attorney, told WCHL News Tuesday evening that they were prepared to testify, but that he would move for a dismissal of all charges against them.

More than 900 protesters were arrested at the state capital during the weekly summer demonstrations against the policies of the North Carolina General Assembly, charged with crimes of trespassing, failure to disperse, and holding signs inside the capital building, which is prohibited.

The verdicts issued against the Moral Monday protesters who have already been tried have ranged from guilty, to acquittals, to plea deals.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/orange-county-five-trial-moral-monday-arrests-postponed/

CH Honors MLK With Annual Rally, Looks Ahead For Moral Monday

CHAPEL HILL - The message of the Moral Monday protests echoed throughout the celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as the community gathered to remember the fight for equality that the civil rights leader began decades ago.

Orange County Commissioner and civil rights attorney Mark Dorosin was the keynote speaker for the Chapel Hill Carrboro NAACP’s annual event Monday to remember Dr. King, this year with the theme, “A Day of Redemption.”

“What Dr. King showed us of so powerfully and what the Moral Monday Movement reminded us of is that we fight back by standing together against the politics of injustice,” Dorosin said.

The day kicked off with a rally in the Peace and Justice Plaza. Activists then marched down Franklin Street to the First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill for music, prayer and special messages to honor the pastor, activist, and humanitarian.

Dr. King would have been 85 years old on January 15.

Martin Luther King Jr Service at First Baptist Church

First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill

Many of the day’s speeches compared the Moral Monday peaceful demonstrations of 2013 against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly to the efforts of Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Dorosin talked about the significance of keeping the movement alive.

“We must insist that our public officials and our policymakers consider the impact of exclusion in every decision that they make in our name,” Dorosin said. “We must hold ourselves accountable in all our actions that that ensure equal treatment for everyone in our community. I think that is what Dr. King meant when he said we must strive for the ‘understanding, creative, redemptive good will of all people.’”

Senator Valerie Foushee (Dem.), who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, spoke at the rally on Franklin Street and marched alongside her constituents and local elected officials from the three municipalities

“It is so good to see so many of you here this morning. It says to me, and I hope it says to everyone here, that we are serious about realizing the dream,” Foushee said.

Former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird retired last August after nine terms of service due to frustration over what was happening in the State legislature. She said she was tired of watching the reversal of “many progressive measures” which she and others had pushed through.

Kinnaird spoke about the importance of not forgetting Dr. King’s teachings and remembering the people who she said were most impacted by the State’s law changes.

“I am a survivor of a vicious legislative attack on me, on Valerie, on women, the elderly, the middle class, the disabled, and most of all on the poor,” Kinnaird said.

Sa’a Mohammed, a student at UNC, said she was touched by the diverse crowd that gathered to rally and march down Franklin Street together.

“The fact that we are able to unite this way is such a significant thing and it makes me really hopeful and optimistic for the future and the fact that we will be able to overcome some of the challenges that are still facing our society,” Mohammed shared.

Minister Michelle Laws, former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, gave one of the most passionate speeches of the day and received a standing ovation for her call to action.

“We are here today to send a message to Governor George Wallace—I’m sorry—I mean, to let Governor Pat McCrory and the likes of Art Pope know that you cannot block the doors of opportunity for the masses and expect to sit comfortably in your seats of power,”  Laws said.

Each year, activists in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community also join in the annual State NAACP’s Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) march on Raleigh. This year it is happening on February 8 and will be combined with a Moral Monday rally.

MLK Day rally marshal Minister Robert Campbell, current president of our local NAACP chapter, was one of the many who encouraged people to attend the Moral March on Raleigh and rekindle the movement.

“We have to work together in order for political, social, economic and education change to take place and to be sustained. We cannot think that for a moment that the movement is for a minute. It is forever,” Campbell said.

Robin Campbell, Robert Campbell

Robin Campbell, Robert Campbell

Other Moments of the Day

During Monday’s service, those arrested during Moral Monday were also recognized. Some shared their experience of being arrested and why they felt moved to do so.

Civil rights attorney Al McSurley introduced Dorosin and recounted the time when the two first met. Dorosin joined McSurley’s law firm when the practice was on Franklin Street above the Rathskeller. Dorosin is now Managing Attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Both are representing Moral Monday arrestees in court.

Diane Robertson was presented with the Rebecca Clark Award for her work in voter registration efforts.

Francis and Marguerite Coyle were awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/ch-honors-mlk-annual-rally-looks-ahead-moral-mondays/

“Moral March” Set To Rekindle Moral Monday Movement

CHAPEL HILL -  The Moral Monday movement is revving back up as the North Carolina NAACP and other activists prepare to rally once again for the Moral March on Raleigh February 8.

An NAACP affiliated group, Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HKonJ), is hosting the event which kicks off at 9:30 a.m. on Shaw University’s campus.

HKonJ hosts a mass assembly each year on the second Saturday in February.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Palmer said she will march on Jones Street. She was arrested during the first Moral Monday on April 29 of last year, along with protest leader and State NAACP Chapter President Reverend William Barber.

“There is an understanding of the importance of this movement, and more people are coming out than before. I think five years ago, they might think, ‘Oh, things are not so bad. These are extremists. Why are they protesting?’ And now, at least there is an awareness that, yes, things are getting worse. We are going backwards.” 

Barber spoke to thousands as they attended the 13 Moral Monday peaceful protests in Raleigh during the summer of 2013, rallying against what they called a “regressive agenda” of the N.C. Legislature.

Close to a thousand people were arrested inside the General Assembly, protesting against legislation which they believed hurt the poor and minority groups, and negatively impacted women’s rights and education, among other issues.

“We hope this will be the largest march since the days of Selma with people coming together,” Barber said during a teleconference Thursday. “We will not only march, but we will lay out our mobilization plan because we have really only just begun to fight. Fifty years ago there was a freedom summer—we are going to have a whole year of freedom fighting for freedom and equality.”

Twenty local Moral Mondays were held across the North Carolina, and the movement is now spreading to other states.

State House Representative for Orange County Verla Insko (Dem.) attended several of the demonstrations last year.

“I do support their effort. I appreciate everything that they are doing. I believe they are on the right side,” Insko said. “They focus a lot, not just on voter ID, but on this income inequality. That is going to be a big issue at the state level as well as at the national level.” 

Palmer said she will continue to rally in 2014 because she believes many state lawmakers are ignoring the movement’s message.

‘Some people say, ‘Oh, you were expecting a miracle.’ I say no, I was expecting some kind of effort on their part to at least appear to be reconciling the different points of view,” she said.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/moral-march-set-rekindle-moral-monday-movement/

Barber, 11 Others Found Guilty In Moral Monday Protests

WAKE COUNTY – A Wake County judge found North Carolina NAACP President William Barber and 11 other Moral Monday protesters guilty of second-degree trespassing and violating building rules while rallying at the state legislature in April.

District Court Judge Joy Hamilton issued her ruling Wednesday after a two-day trial. Defense lawyers argued that the protesters’ actions were protected by both the U.S. and state constitutions, the Associated Press reported.

The 12 defendants in court this week were among the first of more than 900 people arrested during the weekly Moral Monday peaceful protests against legislation passed by Republican-controlled General Assembly during the summer.

Hamilton sentenced the defendants to pay a $100 fine and court costs. The defense gave immediate notice of appeal for the two convictions.

A handful of protesters have been convicted and are appealing, and a few others were acquitted. Charges against dozens of protesters were dropped after they agreed to perform community service under a deal offered by Wake County prosecutors.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/barber-11-others-guilty-moral-monday-protests/

NAACP’s William Barber Back In Court For Moral Monday Charges

WAKE COUNTY - NAACP state chapter president Reverend William Barber and 11 other Moral Monday protesters were back in court Tuesday on charges of disrupting lawmakers during an April rally inside the state Legislative Building.

The group was the first of more than 900 people arrested during the weekly Moral Monday peaceful protests against legislation passed by Republican-controlled General Assembly during the summer.

The protesters were charged with trespassing, failing to disperse and violating Legislative Building rules.

One day of testimony in the trials of Rev. William Barber and the other 11 protesters was held in October, and the trials are expected to continue Wednesday, multiple news outlets reported.

General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver took to the witness stand Tuesday morning, explaining the rules about gatherings at the Legislative Building, WRAL reported. Defense attorneys argued that the rules, which were drafted in 1987, are vague and can be interpreted differently.

A handful of protesters have been convicted and are appealing, and a few others were acquitted. Charges against dozens of protesters were dropped after they agreed to perform community service under a deal offered by Wake County prosecutors.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/naacps-william-barber-back-court-moral-monday-charges/

Carrboro Film Festival: Back & Bigger This Weekend

CARRBORO – The Carrboro Film Festival is back, and this time around, it has triple the entries and has expanded to two days. Event organizers say this weekend will bring the drama in all the right ways.

Jackie Helvey, along with fellow Carrboro Arts Committee member, Nic Beery, organized the town’s first film festival in 2006.

Helvey has watched the event thrive and grow to a 2-day event with submissions from across North Carolina and beyond.

This year marks the first time that international films and feature-length narrative and documentary movies are screened. The lineup this weekend also features another new addition—two free workshops on visual effects and 3D animation

“I think it has encouraged local filmmakers to create more,” Helvey says. “It’s not only that—we’ve gotten international fame. This year, we have a lot of films that are from other countries.”

Click here for the weekend’s schedule of events.

Seventy-three films, a record number for the festival, will be shown in both the Century Center and the ArtsCenter. In total, 198 films were submitted for consideration. Helvey, along with the selection committee, watched each film in order to narrow down the entries.

Helvey says that the recent opening of the Hampton inn, Carrboro’s first hotel, was an incentive for the Board of Aldermen to support the expansion of the festival as it would help accommodate the out-of-town attendees.

“The Board of Aldermen really understand that is it events like this that bring people to Carrboro, that expose people to Carrboro,” Helvey says.

Documentary filmmaker and UNC graduate Jonathan Michels first submitted work to the festival as a student.

“It has meant a lot coming back to the festival as more of a seasoned documentary filmmaker. It is just a validation of the hard work that has been put into the project,” Michels says.

Michels’ piece this year is about this past summer’s Moral Monday movement, a series of weekly protests in Raleigh against the N.C. General Assembly.

His film is called “It’s Monday and the South is Rising.”

“You’d also have thousands of people showing up to these rallies from all over North Carolina and even surrounding states,” Michels says. “It does mean a lot to people to see a film made about this event. It is also something that they can hand to other people and say, ‘This is what it was like to be at Moral Monday during the summer of 2013.’”

Michels explains the film is meant to be a snap shot of what it was like to experience the Moral Monday protests. Helvey says it is a “piece of history.”

In addition to documentaries, the selected films encompass genres ranging from drama, comedy, animation, student films and experimental pieces.

Click here for ticket information.

http://chapelboro.com/news/carrboro-film-festival-back-bigger-weekend/

PPP: Most Voters Still Unhappy With NC GOP

CHAPEL HILL- North Carolinians continue to be widely displeased with the General Assembly, but those numbers could be changing, according to Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams.

“State government, as a whole, is not viewed very well by North Carolinians,” says Williams. “Just 39 percent of voters say GOP control of government has been a good thing, compared to 50 percent who say it’s a bad thing.”

Williams says while Governor Pat McCrory’s popularity rating has risen by two points since September, only 39 percent of those polled approve of his leadership.

Though the majority of voters polled view Republicans negatively, the numbers have shifted slightly in their favor since the end of the legislative session. Democrats, who led on a generic ballot by a nine point margin in July, now lead by only two points.

Public Policy Polling also asked respondents how the court system should deal with those arrested during the Moral Monday protests. Williams says most feel the charges should be dropped.

“Fifty-one percent of voters think that those charges against the protesters should be dropped, compared to just 33 percent who think that they should be prosecuted,” says Williams. “That includes the majority of Democrats and independents, and even 29 percent of Republicans voters think those charges should be dropped.”

The survey polled 701 registered voters throughout North Carolina. You can find a link to the full results here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ppp-most-voters-still-unhappy-with-nc-gop/