Raleigh, N.C., June 3 — The fightback being led here by the North Carolina NAACP with weekly protests continues to gain momentum against the right-wing Legislature’s draconian policies, attacks on basic democratic rights and the push for austerity.
The protests — called ‘Moral Mondays’ — which began on April 29 and have been growing larger every Monday since, give expression to a growing spirit of resistance. Thousands have mobilized and 309 people have been arrested during these actions.
More than 2,000 people from across the state representing many different social sectors came to Raleigh on June 3 for the largest demonstration to date. Traveling on buses, and in organized vans and carpools, they mobilized on a scale unprecedented in recent memory. Churches and other social movement organizations played an especially vital role in the mobilization.
NAACP president, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, told those at the rally: “They meet in secret with ALEC. They meet in secret with the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation. … [These attacks are] not accidental or naïve, this is premeditated. They are driving us down a road backwards. This is Old South politics. This is extreme politics. This is regressive politics.
“As George Wallace in the Old South stood in the door trying to block opportunity and the future, so now the North Carolina leadership has picked up the mantle of George Wallace. … They are drunk with power and greed. This is a takeover, but it won’t work. The people are awake now, and we have decided to stand up!”
Some 151 people were arrested as they lined up in front of the doors leading to the state Senate chambers in the legislative building, doubling the number of arrested in all four previous actions. Meanwhile, hundreds packed the halls and the rotunda outside the chamber and joined those participating in civil disobedience in chants and singing freedom songs.
Justin Flores, an organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and one of those arrested June 3, told Workers World: “North Carolina was home of Local 22, a progressive and Black-led union during the Jim Crow South, the sit-ins, and the first union contract for farmworkers on the East Coast. Since [Gov. Pat] McCrory’s election, this radical Tea Party Legislature has had a blank check to take North Carolina in the opposite direction, trying to undo the progress of the last 60 years.”
“With the election rigging disguised as redistricting and an attack on voting rights,” Flores continued, “it seemed that direct action on a large scale is the only way to fight back and wake people up. The Right has so far over reached and once FLOC signed onto the movement, I jumped at the chance to push back against the craziness happening in Raleigh.”
Right-wing attacks spur fight back
Super majorities of Tea Party politicians in both houses of the General Assembly and the governor have been ramming through an agenda that is thoroughly reactionary and racist to the core.
“We are here because they are trying to take from those who are poor for the benefit of the rich,” Ramon, a longtime member of FLOC, told WW at the Moral Monday action. “Education, health care, voting rights — all these things they are trying to take from the poor.” (floc.typepad.com)
They dismantled the unemployment system, attacked reproductive rights and have waged a campaign to curtail basic democratic rights to vote for people of color, youth, and poor and working people. Arizona-style anti-immigration measures have also been recently introduced.
North Carolina is now the only state in the country where teenagers cannot get medical attention — including treatment for sexually transmitted infections or diseases or for mental health — without parental consent. It is only one of two states that try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the courts, and the Legislature is now trying to lower the age to 13, further fueling the school-to-prison pipeline that targets Black and Latino/a youth.
The state budget proposal imposes massive cuts on public services and education, while giving huge tax breaks for the rich that will be paid on the backs of working people. Further undermining the ability of workers to organize is also at the top of their agenda. School vouchers, expanding charter and private schools, and other privatization schemes are quickly making their way through the Legislature.
“People say that education is the great equalizer, but education itself isn’t equal,” Sanyu Gichie, a university student and a member of the NC Student Power Union and the Youth Organizing Institute, told WW. “African-American students are already impacted by this inequality largely due to institutional racism, harsh and disproportional implementation of punishment on Black youth, and with the cuts the Legislature is talking about, school vouchers, and expanding charters and private schools, this will only make the problems we face in school much worse.”
Build people’s assemblies
Each week since the demonstrations began, the number of people who have mobilized to the demonstration as well as those who have participated in the civil disobedience action has risen.
But one factor that was especially important in building this action is a 25-city tour that the NAACP launched on May 25 that concludes on June 7. The tour has crisscrossed the state, stopping in communities big and small to build momentum behind the Moral Monday actions.
Another longer term goal of the tour is to help develop people’s assemblies in these communities that can meet to discuss issues and struggles, and build institutions of people’s democracy over time.
Build Moral Mondays!
The NAACP and other groups have vowed to continue the weekly Monday actions throughout the remainder of the legislative session, which should run through mid-July.
In the face of some of the most serious attacks on people here in decades, the united front of resistance led by Rev. Barber and the NAACP must continue to be strengthened and expanded to push back against the right-wing agenda.
These actions resonate with people across the state, and the large June 3 turnout indicates they will continue to build. Many right-wing politicians, including most recently the governor, have called for the demonstrations to end. Rev. Barber’s answer at the June 3 rally was:
“Don’t ask us when we’ll stop. Ask [House speaker Thom] Tillis and [Senate leader Phil] Berger and the man in the governor’s mansion when they’ll stop. … Stopping is not in our vocabulary. We are a movement, this is not a moment. We walk forward together, not one step back!”