Scores of protesters occupied the intersection of Franklin and Columbia Streets in downtown Chapel Hill Tuesday night, in opposition to the General Assembly passing House Bill 2.
The protest began at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street then proceeded west down the street until reaching the intersection with Columbia Street. The protest shut down traffic for several hours.
There, the protesters formed a circle while giving the opportunity for individuals to share their experiences of being a transgender person in North Carolina.
Listen to Chris Grunert’s report from the rally against HB2:
At one point, about two hours into the protest, police attempted to reopen the street and allow traffic to pass through, but a small group of individuals sat in circle in the middle of the intersection refusing to move. But, after a short time, the dozens of protesters that had moved to sidewalk soon moved back into the street
Organizer June Beshea said it was part of the plan.
“I’m excited at this moment,” said Beshea.
She was planning on staying until she was made to leave.
“I hope that get rid of the bill, I mean the law, but I’m going to get that I am going to get arrested tonight.”
The police let a few buses through but shortly afterwards, those that had move to the sidewalk returned to the street, where they continued to chant.
Traffic was blocked for almost three hours before the protest ended. No arrests were made.
During the protest police blocked the road and directed cars to turn around until allowing traffic to pass through at around 9:30. The rally concluded back at the Peace and Justice Plaza.
Franklin Street was even lined with rainbow flags.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt sent an open letter on Monday sharing the university’s progress on their race and equity initiatives.
The university announced a list of programs to improve “equity and inclusion” on campus after a town hall meeting in the fall when student protest movements articulated their demands.
Folt said that university leaders will participate in training about racial bias and institutional racism. She also promised to have plans in February for a dedicated space for black students. Student protests have called for a black student union.
Folt wrote that counseling and mental health services will be reevaluated to provide more equal access for all students.
In the letter, Folt mentioned the Task-Force on UNC- Chapel Hill History and their work to create the Carolina Hall Exhibit, which “will explore race in the history of the University.” The task-force was created in response to calls to rename Saunders Hall, which was named for William L. Saunders, a former North Carolina Secretary of State but also a local leader of the Ku Klux Khan. The Board of Trustees renamed the building Carolina Hall last summer.
The letter highlighted efforts to encourage degree completion and student success through the Thrive@Carolina initiative. The university is also working on a website to serve as the main page for the university’s efforts on race, equity and inclusion.
These initiatives are seen partially as a response student protest on campus including a rally in the fall in support of the protest movement that began at the University of Missouri. The university then held a town hall style meeting where many of the student demands were announced.http://chapelboro.com/featured/progress-on-unc-race-and-inclusion-efforts
About 60 people marched down Franklin Street on Wednesday night to protest a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
Chapel Hill Police spokesman Josh Mecimore said some officers were on hand to escort the group as they marched from Peace and Justice Plaza to University Square.
“Our entire involvement was in blocking the street to keep cars from being able to drive into the area where those folks were gathered, and then once they were out of the street we opened the street back up,” says Mecimore. The demonstration lasted about an hour.
More demonstrations are planned in Durham on Thursday and Friday.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/protesters-briefly-block-franklin-street-grand-jury-verdict
All eyes are on Ferguson, Missouri, but UNC students are taking part in protests as well. The day after a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, 500 people gathered in the Pit on UNC campus, says sophomore Rashidah Richardson.
She says the Pit demonstration shows how much people care.
“I think it just goes to show that so many people showed up, that we do care,” Richardson says. “And I think part of the reason why our government is not really responding is because they think people don’t care, they think we’re complacent with them telling us that black bodies don’t matter. And we’re saying that they do, (and) we care, (and) something needs to be done about it.”
Sophomore Kierra Campbell says she also took part in the Pit demonstration.
“I got here and I saw the semi-circle of mostly students of color, but also other students mixed in, wearing all black, and it was just a very somber and real moment,” she says. “You saw their pain on their faces, so that was the first thing that impacted me. And then as I was in the circle, one girl spoke and then I went up there and spoke and relayed my story and how this incident relates personally to my life. So I’m thankful that I had the boldness, that God gave me the boldness to speak, but…people need to hear these stories.”
She emphasized the importance of talking about the complex issue of race with others.
“We come from two different backgrounds, we come from two different cultures,” she says. “We talk about our cultural differences, we talk about the different lifestyles and how we grew up, (and) we talk about the differences that black and white Americans face in this country. So for one, just talking to the white individuals who are close to you, encouraging them to participate in a dialogue with you. Not just being angry, but if you’re angry just express your anger in a way that they can understand. Like use our words and not just our fists. And so that’s the number one way that I feel like we’re gonna to be able to like implement some real changes, to get people talking. That’s the number one thing, planting seeds around here. Like this needs to get into people’s minds. And encourage them to go talk to their other white counterparts, their siblings, their families, and tell them why we feel like this.”
Shantell McLaggan addressed the violence seen in Ferguson after the decision was released.
“There’s just been a lot of negative backlash regarding all the violence that’s going on in Ferguson,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of really rude comments, (people) saying things like, ‘if people want justice then they should act peacefully,’ and ‘blah blah blah, peace peace peace.’ But we’ve been in this country just as long as white people have. We built this country. And ever since slavery was abolished, we have been trying peace and forgiveness and love. MLK was shot, for using peace tactics. (I’m) not saying that violence is necessarily the answer – but when we’re being slapped in the face, don’t expect us to just take it.”
Campbell reiterated her frustration with the response to violence in Ferguson.
“Just as a toddler gets mad and starts throwing their toys and breaking their stuff when they’re not being heard and they’re not understood, it’s because (the government’s) not understanding us,” she says. “So I’m not justifying the destruction of private property, but I definitely for damn sure understand where they coming from.”
Psychology major Imani Brown says this demonstration was a signal to the wider community that the events in Ferguson can’t be overlooked.
“Get used to feeling uncomfortable, because we’re not going anywhere,” she say. “And I think that this demonstration showed that we’re not going to keep quiet about this. Yes, we’re at a PWI (predominantly white institution), and yes, we can be the only black students in our class, but that doesn’t overshadow, it’s not going make us timid from voicing our opinions and voicing how we feel about when things like this happen.
“So it was very important for even the people who walked through us, even the people who stood around and laughed and took pictures and stuff like that. At least they see at this point that we care about what’s going on. We’re not going to shut up about this. Just because we’re in a white environment doesn’t mean we aren’t going to let our black voices be heard.”
During the demonstration, hundreds of students walked out of class at noon, then stood in silence before sharing stories of their experiences. The group also staged a ‘die-in’, lying on the ground for 4 and a half minutes to commemorate the four and half hours that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/pit-protest-brings-ferguson-unc
Additional reporting provided by the Associated Press
Peaceful protests in Durham mirrored actions taken across the country Thursday evening.
Multiple media outlets are reporting a peaceful gathering of people surrounded the Old Durham Courthouse as part of the National Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality.
On Saturday, Ferguson, Missouri police shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The death of the unarmed, black teenager has excited racial tensions in the small town. The police force there is nearly all white, while the town itself is nearly 70-percent black.
Thursday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon brought in the state Highway Patrol, stripping authority away from local police, who had responded to looting, rock throwing and the tossing of Molotov cocktails with the use of tear gas and police dogs. It was reported Thursday that the name of the officer who shot Brown is scheduled to be released Friday.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/durham-peaceful-protest-police-brutality-victims
RALEIGH — Nearly 20 people were arrested outside the doors of the state Senate chamber at the North Carolina General Assembly, two days after a judge struck down building rules regarding demonstrations.
Hundreds of protesters streamed into the second and third-floor rotunda of the Legislative Building Monday, taking full advantage of a ruling in Wake County Superior Court regarding rules enacted this year. The group celebrated the court decision with loud singing, chanting and shouting just before the Senate met.
The arrests during the weekly “Moral Monday” rally focused on collective bargaining and raising the minimum wage.
One protester who was arrested said she hopes state senators hear voices like hers who have to struggle to make ends meet as a single mom working at a fast-food restaurant.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/20-arrested-moral-monday
RALEIGH – The chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party says inflammatory rhetoric and symbolism by some protesters of GOP policies aren’t helping create a respectful political dialogue.
Claude Pope made the comments Tuesday, a day after marchers outside the Executive Mansion carried empty caskets to memorialize four girls killed in an Alabama church bombing 50 years ago this week. The Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP on Monday called on Gov. Pat McCrory to remember the blood that was shed to advance voting rights in the country.
Allies of Barber and Democrats have condemned an election overhaul bill approved by lawmakers and signed my McCrory as making it harder for many groups to vote.
Pope says it’s a stretch to connect the governor with a tragedy from 50 years ago.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-republican-chairman-criticizes-protest-tactics
Previous protest in Raleigh
CHARLOTTE – About 2,000 people gathered Monday night in a downtown Charlotte park to protest the actions of Republican lawmakers during the last legislative session.
Protesters held signs and listened to speakers who criticized the GOP agenda in North Carolina.
The protesters included Carl Caldwell, a retired teacher who says it had been years since he’d been to a protest. But he’s appalled that the GOP-led General Assembly has promoted an agenda that he says has “stripped the poor, elderly and working people of their basic rights.”
Charlotte was the most recent stop for the Moral Monday movement that has drawn thousands of people to weekly demonstrations in Raleigh, resulting in 930 arrests.
Also Monday, protests were held in the coastal community of Manteo, and in Burnsville in the western North Carolina mountains.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/moral-monday-protest-held-in-charlotte
CHAPEL HILL – Governor Pat McCrory is coming to you to talk about his plans for education in North Carolina.
According to ProgressNC Action, Gov. McCrory will be giving a speech about education Thursday morning at the Sheraton at One Europa Drive in Chapel Hill.
Protesters are planning to gather beginning at 8:00 a.m. wearing red again in support of teachers and better funding for education, just as they did during this past Moral Monday.
Tune in to the WCHL morning news at 8:00 a.m. to hear live updates from the protest.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/gov-mccrory-talks-education-in-ch-thursday-protest-planned
RALEIGH – A protest of Republican policies at the North Carolina General Assembly has ended with the arrests of 17 people.
General Assembly police arrested members of the state chapter of the NAACP and other activists Monday outside the Senate chambers. The demonstrators called attention through prayer and song to what they called a regressive agenda.
Police Chief Jeff Weaver said the protestors will be charged.
The protest was directed at Republican action on health care, unemployment benefits, education and voting rights. The House passed a bill last week requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People views as a poll tax.
Chapter president the Rev. William Barber said more protests at the General Assembly are likely.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/naacp-protest-at-nc-legislature-ends-in-arrests