Full announcement from the Advancement Project:
(Raleigh, NC) – Thousands of people from across the state rallied outside the North Carolina General Assembly yesterday for the 13th Moral Monday demonstration. The event culminated with a mass march to the State Capitol, flooding many blocks of downtown Raleigh with the movement’s largest crowds yet. And while it marked the final Moral Monday of this legislative session in Raleigh, the Forward Together Movement vowed that it was not the end. Instead, leaders emphasized, they have just begun their fight.
Efforts include continuing to speak out and organize against ideologically extreme policies passed by the state’s Republican-led General Assembly this session, such as measures to reject federal resources to expand Medicare to the uninsured; cut federal unemployment benefits for laid-off workers; end the earn income tax credit for low-income working families; slashing more than $100 million from public education funding; and drastically decrease access to abortion. In the session’s last days, lawmakers passed the worst voter suppression bill in the nation, cutting a week from early voting, eliminating same-day voter registration, creating a strict photo ID requirement, and prohibiting paid voter registration drives, among other sweeping provisions.
“We have suffered several temporary defeats in the People’s House over the past few months,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Forward Together Movement. “But we’ve not gone anywhere. And we’re not going anywhere. We understand that we’re not in some mere political movement. We’re not in some mere fight over 2014. We’re in a fight for the soul of this state, the soul of the South, and the soul of this nation. By attacking poor children, sick workers and the environment, as well as committing the ultimate crime against democracy through attacking voting rights, they have united the movement that we’ve been building for several years like never before.”
Rev. Barber announced next steps for the Forward Together Movement, including, among other actions:
· A mass voter registration campaign, for which the NC NAACP will host trainings across the state. Every person arrested during Moral Monday and Witness Wednesday demonstrations has also vowed to register 50 people to vote.
· Taking Moral Mondays on the road, with local communities hosting mass demonstrations each month in towns outside of Raleigh.
· Forward Together Movement “Social Justice Services” on August 24-25, in which faith communities will dedicate their Saturday and Sunday services to addressing the moral crisis of public policy in North Carolina and building a more just and equitable society.
· Holding 13 simultaneous protest and organizing rallies in North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts on August 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
· Attending congressional forums, held by members of U.S. Congress across North Carolina, to hold representatives accountable and demand that they stand against regressive policies in the state, as well as reinstate qualifications under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act nationally.
Next steps also include strategic legal actions to combat North Carolina’s far-reaching voter suppression law. The national civil rights organization Advancement Project, which has been offering legal support to the Forward Together Movement, plans to provide its considerable legal resources to the North Carolina NAACP and its allies to challenge the state’s new legislation by any means necessary under law. “This bill targets nearly every aspect of the voting process, restricting who can vote, where they can vote and how they can vote,” said Penda D. Hair, Co-Director of Advancement Project. “Far from having anything to do with election integrity, the legislation is about politicians manipulating voting laws for political gain.”
“Legislators seem to think that just because they went home that somehow we will forget what happened here,” said Mary B. McMillan, State Secretary Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO. “I’ve got news for them: we will never forget the meanness, the arrogance, and the injustice that they brought on North Carolina. We will not go away, and we will not back down. Over the course of this next year, and over every corner of this state, from the mountains to the sea, we will organize and mobilize.”
Rodney Ellis Sr., an 8th grade teacher from Winston-Salem and president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, vowed that teachers will also help move the Forward Together Movement further across the state. “Public educators and public schools are not failing our students; politicians are,” Ellis said of the budget passed by the legislature that eliminates more than 9,000 education positions and creates a voucher program that sends public money to private schools. “On August 28, we will co-sponsor 13 rallies to be held in localities throughout North Carolina to mobilize voters to go to the polls in 2014 and elect candidates who support North Carolina’s public school system.”
Throughout the racially diverse, multigenerational and interfaith crowd on Monday, hundreds of attendees wore green arm bands, signifying their arrests over the past 13 weeks for engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. Moral Monday started on April 29 with a group of 17 North Carolinians – clergy members, college students, senior citizens, teachers, doctors and others – who got arrested to oppose and expose the avalanche of regressive policies pushed by the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory. The ranks of the Forward Together Movement have since swelled to include tens of thousands from all corners of the state, with more than 930 people ultimately arrested and jailed. Approval ratings for the Governor and legislature, meanwhile, have plummeted by more than 20 percent.
“We were never under any delusions that people drunk with power would turn,” said Rev. Barber of Moral Mondays. “But we knew that if lawmakers did not change, then our work would change the consciousness of this state.”