Peace and Justice Plaza has a history of housing protests throughout history, and it was once again on Wednesday afternoon.

The Chapel Hill – Carrboro chapter of the NAACP, in conjunction with the state branch, were joined by members of the UNC Center for Civil Rights in front of the Post Office in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. The group was protesting a proposal by the UNC System Board of Governors that would remove the center’s power to litigate cases.

President of the state NAACP Doctor William Barber called for the end of what he described as the attack of the center.

“This center has been one of the leading civil rights centers in the world,” Barber said. “[It] has demonstrated unparalleled excellence in the pursuit dismantling structural and racial barriers to equality.”

Barber brought the center’s director Ted Shaw to the podium recalling the center’s foundation under longtime civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers.

“Ted, we knew this day would come,” Barber told Shaw. “Because Julius Chambers told Gene Nichol when they started in 1999, ‘If we do our work, somebody one day will want to close us down.’”

Protesters supporting the UNC Center for Civil Rights came in all ages. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Shaw said he was still hopeful the center would retain its power to litigate.

“There are certainly some people on the Board of Governors, how many we do not yet know, who are trying to drive the center out of existence,” Shaw said. “No question about that.”

Shaw added that he hoped not every board member was on that mission, “I’m hoping they don’t go forward with this idea because it would be shameful.”

The center, in the past, has represented low-income and minority residents in cases centered on social justice and education equality.

Mark Dorosin is the managing attorney for the center.

“All direct advocacy engaged in by the center is on behalf of low-wealth individuals, families and communities across North Carolina that are fighting against discrimination and for equal justice under the law,” Dorosin said.

Dorosin added that no state funds go toward the center.

A public hearing is set for the Board of Governors on the future of the center on Thursday from 11 until one o’clock at the Center for School Leadership Development across from the Friday Center.

The full board could vote on cutting the center’s power at a meeting in Asheville in July.

Photo via Blake Hodge