CH To Commemorate March On Washington

Pictured: Moral Monday March on July 29

CHAPEL HILL – Events have been taking place in the nation’s capitol and across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here in North Carolina, the state NAACP’s “Taking the Dream Home” Rally, happening simultaneously in all 13 congressional districts on Wednesday, is coming to Chapel Hill.

Attorney and activist Tye Hunter of Chapel Hill is speaking at the rally in front of the Peace & Justice Plaza on Franklin Street. Hunter will be joined by other speakers such as former state senator Ellie Kinnaird, Dr. Bill Turner, and Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood.

“We hope to be and certainly the NAACP hopes to be a continuation of that struggle which started a long time ago and has made some progress but still has a lot of progress to make.” Hunter says.

Hunter explains the rally is also a continuation of the Moral Monday protests, led by NAACP State Chapter President Reverend William Barber. The series of demonstrations, which happened over the summer in Raleigh, and then in cities across North Carolina, saw more than 900 arrests in the General Assembly. Hunter was arrested during the second Moral Monday on May 6.

Thousands gathered at those rallies, and he hopes the same energy will carry over to Wednesday’s event.

“I think it is just very important that we continue,” he says. “This is what Reverend Barber always says, that ‘we are a movement and not a moment.’”

Hunter says his talk will center on criminal justice in North Carolina, specifically the repeal of the Racial Justice Act. The 2009 law allowed convicted murderers to reduce a death sentence to life in prison if they could prove that race played a major role in their cases, but was overturned in June. Hunter says statistical data proved that it was necessary to maintain fairness

“It’s pretty outrageous that the legislature’s reaction to all that is to say, ‘Well, let’s do away with that [the Racial Justice Act],’” Hunter says. “So we found we had a problem and the legislature said let’s do away with it.’”

Other topics slated for discussion include voting rights and economic justice. For more information about the rally happening at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Courthouse on Franklin Street, click here.

CH Mayor Kleinschmidt Says Racial Justice Act Is Essential To Fair Trials

Additional reporting by Rachel Nash

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the North Carolina justice system will suffer now that state General Assembly has officially repealed the controversial Racial Justice Act.

Kleinschmidt— who’s worked as an attorney in death penalty litigation— says he’s especially disappointed because after the Act first became law, statistical data proved that it was necessary to maintain fairness.

“One of the things that I think is most disturbing is the kind of racial bias that was discovered in the studies that followed the passage of the bill. The bill itself allowed investigation into how prosecutors in North Carolina used race to determining the make-up of juries,” Kleinschmidt explained.

On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives gave final approval to repeal the Act by a vote of 77-39. The Act had been in place since 2009 to allow North Carolina death row convicts to make appeals based on racial biases.

Kleinschmidt says the decision doesn’t just affect those who are on death row.

“The goes right into not only the people who are charged but people who are being asked to serve their state as jurors and very disturbing evidence of a pattern of prosecutors dismissing jurors who are otherwise qualified to serve just because of their race. I think every North Carolina who seeks to serve should be distressed by this,” he said.

The state hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006 because of various legal appeals.

The bill will go to the state senate for a final vote of agreement, before moving to the desk of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign the repeal bill.

The senate passed an initial version of the bill back in April.