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NAACP pickets N.C. budget director
Activists target Art Pope's retail stores
 
Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013 3:12 pm
by Latisha Catchatoorian

CHAPEL HILL – N.C. Budget Director Art Pope is also the head of Roses and Maxway discount stores. Pope is being criticized for using money from his stores to fund right-wing groups and legislation that harm the working class and poor. 

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PHOTO/LATISHA CATCHITOORIAN
Activists picket a Roses store in Chapel Hill. The N.C. NAACP launched a campaign to protest policies supported by N.C. Budget Director Art Pope, whose family owns Roses and Maxway retail chains. Pope is a major financial backer of conservative political candidates and causes.

Picketers passed out information regarding Pope’s practices near a Roses store at University Mall. 

According to the N.C. NAACP, a reported $40 million linked to Pope’s stores have gone to political donations and right-wing groups that “pass laws that keep his customers and workers poor.” Pope’s stores target areas with a median household income of $40,000 or less and at least 25 percent of the African-American population.

“Art Pope makes his millions from places like Roses, which he usually puts in low-income communities and then takes that money and uses it to live whatever lifestyle he chooses to live,” said Barrett Brown, education chair for the Alamance chapter of the NAACP. 

Brown said Pope then makes “huge contributions” to conservative political candidates so they can pass bills engineered by right-wing think tanks like the John W. Pope Foundation and Civitas Institute. Brown calls this “bought-and-paid-for politics.” 

Pope has backed laws that cut aid to the jobless, reduce early voting, trim health services for women and children, end the Racial Justice Act, and more. He also was an incremental part of creating racially discriminatory maps for the new General Assembly and congressional districts, packing black citizens into a small number of districts, which is called gerrymandering. 

“We are out here because they are cutting all the mental health programs, the Medicaid; they’re just cutting all these social things for people,” picketer Jonathan Rucker said. “A lot of my family uses these ways of support and for them to cut it, it’s just wrong.” 

Durham resident Mary White was out “to inform the public about the problem that arises when they give their money to someone who is against the progress of their own people.”

Brown said standing out with a sign creates conversation and gives frustrated citizens a positive outlet. 

“I think they just thought we were going to pace the floors and grit our teeth and they were going to get away with it, but what has happened is people have started to come together in ways they didn’t anticipate,” he said. 

Robert Campbell, president of the Carrboro-Chapel Hill chapter of the NAACP, said they organized the effort to let people know that “North Carolina is not for sale.” The legislative practices hurt the “least among us” - the middle class and low-income workers. 

He said McCrory’s hiring of Pope was “just like taking the fox to guard the hen house.”

“To have that type of influence, it tells us the character of our politicians that are running our state right now,” he said. “They are enhancing their ego rather than enhancing the quality of life for North Carolinians.” 

Added Brown: “We need to wake people up so they don’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on.”

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Welcome to the south. Not much has changed. What else is new?
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