As a brisk wind brushed along the front of the Capitol building Saturday morning, a voice reverberated among the crowd gathered in the street.
“I regret to inform you that North Carolina is still in a state of emergency,” boomed North Carolina NAACP president the Reverend Anthony T. Spearman to the thirteenth iteration of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKonJ. “And this is no time for us to stand down. The ugly strain of white supremacy is still alive in this place.”
The HKonJ, a mobilization of many civil rights and progressive groups that first took to the streets in 2007 to protest human rights injustices, might not have brought the eighty thousand demonstrators it did in 2014, in response to the state’s first full year under a unified Republican government, but the annual Moral March did draw hundreds in support of social justice and equality.
“Those of us in the human race have come to understand that we have a tremendous moral power when we fuse our spirits and fuse our votes behind an anti-racism, anti-war, and anti-poverty agenda,” Spearman said.
Marching from Duke Energy Center down Fayetteville Street to the Capitol building, protesters from local NAACP chapters as well as Planned Parenthood and immigration rights groups demanded change at all levels of government.
“We need a large contingent of cross-sectional groups to come together and unite under the banner of social justice and civil rights,” said demonstrator Baron Brown. “Because civil rights isn’t just how black people should be treated, it’s how all people in a civilized society should be treated.”
Protesters raised signs condemning ICE for what they described as Nazi-like behavior, calling for universal health care, and demanding an end to restrictions on voting access.
“This means everything,” said Annette Wright as the march neared the Capitol. “This is what life is about: equality.”
At the Capitol, they were met by a plethora of speakers: A teacher terrified of her students being deported. A mother whose son had died due to congestive heart failure who pleaded for the legislature to expand Medicaid. A pastor speaking out against injustice faced by the black LGBTQ community.
As the sharp, overcast cold gave way to sunshine, the Reverend William Barber, the organizer of the first HKonJ, delivered the climactic speech of the Moral March.
“It’s not civilized for this state and for political leaders to deny the beneficent provisions for the poor and the children,” said Barber, who now heads the Poor People’s Campaign. “It’s uncivilized.”
The best way to fight these human rights violations, Barber said, was to continue mobilizing.
“We’re still down here in North Carolina and we’ve got work to do,” he said. This is no time to stop. Whether you’re young or old or black or white or brown or Asian or native or gay or straight, we can’t stand down now. We can’t stop registering now. We can’t stop going to the statehouse now. We can’t stand down now.
There were THOUSANDS of people, not hundreds. I was there, but look at the pictures. There were pre-rally speeches, a march and then rally speeches, so also people came for different parts of it, between 8:30am and 12:30pm. This means there were more people than in any one picture too. I’d say 7,000-10,000 people.
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