|Thousands flock for 'Moral March'|
|Activists press progressive cause in Raleigh|
|Published Monday, February 10, 2014 8:14 pm|
RALEIGH – Over 80,000 people flocked to the state's capital to participate in the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) march in downtown Raleigh on Saturday.
|An estimated 80,000 people marched on Raleigh on Saturday to demand changes to North Carolina's right-leaning political policies. The "Moral March on Raleigh" was organized by the N.C. NAACP.|
This year's march, dubbed the "Moral March on Raleigh" by the N.C. NAACP and its partners, is part of a continued effort to bring awareness to the state's political agenda, serving as an outlet for people to protest and have their voices be heard.
"This year after more than 30 Moral Mondays here and around the state, this year, after nearly 1,000 people were arrested for refusing to give up their constitutional rights to nonviolent peaceful assembly, we return to Raleigh with a renewed strength and renewed sense of urgency," said Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP.
The march, aimed at promoting principles of equality and challenging premeditated attacks on them by extremists, according to Barber, “Inaugurates a fresh year of grassroots empowerment, voter education, litigation and nonviolent direct action.”
While Barber's statements were all-inclusive, people's reasons for participating in the movement were as varied as the marchers themselves. Proponents for voting rights and educational reform were not in short supply.
Joe Key, a self-employed businessman, said that the current state of North Carolina is affecting his work.
"Voter's rights, I.D.s - I just think it's kind of getting to be a little unnecessary," he said. "But we are all here to fight for the right cause."
Key said that current policy is putting a strain on how he takes care of his employees and he is experiencing cutbacks. He said that marching will hopefully show those in office what is going on and get them to pay attention- simply by the sheer number of people attending.
"If I didn't [come out] and everybody thought like that, that it was just another Saturday, then we wouldn't have the numbers that we have and we'd all come up short," he said.
George Battle III of Charlotte, who is running for the 12th Congressional District seat vacated by Mel Watt, said he came out to lend his voice to "like-minded individuals who feel like our state is on the wrong track and want to get it back on the right one."
Rich Nixon, a local history teacher and president of the Johnston County Association of Educators, said that schools should be for students, not profit.
"We march for public schools," he said. "Everyday around this state educators stand up for children because they know, as we know, that college is power, education is freedom, and the path to opportunity and equality begins at the school house door."
Jessica Holmes, an attorney for the North Carolina Association of Educators, said she knows what it is like to grow up in poverty and have school be your safe refuge.
"People, I am a living testimony that public schools matter, so we at NCAE, we say no to the war on teachers, we say no to the war on public schools," she said.
Mary McCray, chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, has been a public education employee for 34 years and attended the march.
"There are a lot of good things, I don't want to dwell on what's wrong," she said. "One of the best things that we can do is concentrate more funding on, and more of our energy towards, early education and pre-K education."
McCray said that to her, marches are a compilation of everybody and what they feel is not going right for the state.
"Maybe we didn't do this piece of legislation correctly, maybe we can do better with our funding of Medicare and Medicaid, maybe we can do better with the funding of public education," she said. "Hopefully it is a way of sending a peaceful message."
Kevin Lanier, an N.C. Central University graduate, attended in protest of health care cuts and other budget reductions like unemployment benefits.
"To get these politicians in high positions to understand that we as the people have a voice and that a lot of the decisions that they've been making- the people have a right to vote for, the people have a right to change some of these things," he said.
Lanier said that though politicians may not necessarily care that people are out marching, if citizens fail to care, then nothing would ever change.
"We as a people must first act like we care to then get them to care," he said.
"In policy and politics we face two choices," Barber said. "One is the low road to destruction and the other is the pathway to higher ground."
Barber went on to recount statistics, saying that is "mighty low" to cut Medicaid for more than 500,000 people, raise taxes on 900,000 poor and middle class citizens in order to cut taxes for the wealthy, end unemployment benefits for 170,000 and to re-segregate schools and cut funding for public education.
"It is mighty low for us to sing 'America, America, God shed his grace on you,' with one breath and then in the other breath deny workers the greatness of labor rights and collective bargaining," he said. "It's mighty low to wave banners and place bumper stickers on our cars saying 'God Bless America,' but fail to realize our obligation to bless God by how we treat our brothers and sisters."
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