Meg Berreth, a UNC Hospitals nurse-midwife who protested Saturday with her mother, husband and 10-year-old daughter, criticized the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion.
“It really means the most poor and vulnerable people don’t have access to health care,” she said.
Her mother was arrested at a Moral Monday march this summer, fueling the family’s activism.
The march lined the streets with strollers — one of them sporting a sign with a tiny traced handprint: “Give your hands to struggle.”
Chelsea Earles of Durham, who attended the march with her partner, Themis Stone,
and her 6-year-old daughter, said she had attended the Historic Thousands on Jones Street marches since they started eight years ago. But she said this time, it was all about her child.
Stone decried a policy that would replace K-12 teacher tenure with pay bumps and four-year contracts for the top 25 percent of each district’s educators.
Dr. Alex Cho, a professor in Duke University’s School of Medicine, attended the march clad in his white lab coat, his 6-year-old daughter clutching his coattails.
He said the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion stifles the economic needs of rural counties.
“Hospitals are the largest employers in most of these counties,” he said. “To take away literally billions of dollars out of political spite is just sad.”
Tom Dessereau and Monika Gross made the trek from Asheville with their daughter to advocate for immigrants without documentation.
“They fear coming forward to express their rights,” Dessereau said. “They deserve to be here.”
Dave Bennard, a special needs teacher in Granville County, brought another kind of family — his teaching assistant and a substitute teacher in his department.
Bennard said low teacher pay drives educators across the state border.
“People are looking at those little gas-efficient cars, (thinking), ‘Can I do a 60-, 80-mile range a day?’” he said. “For more support, yeah, they can.”
For many marchers, the event hearkened back to the political past — and it reunited George and Susanne Sawyer of Charlotte with an old friend.
George was arrested June 3 with about 150 demonstrators — his wife’s childhood friend among them, making it the first time in 56 years the two saw each other.
The march drew voices from across the globe.
Hugo Bouvard, a visiting lecturer at Duke, said North Carolina’s political landscape differs starkly from that of France, his home country. France legalized gay marriage last year — almost exactly a year after North Carolina banned it in a constitutional amendment, prompting Bouvard to channel his activism across the Atlantic.
Douglas Campbell, a Duke Divinity School professor and New Zealand native, said his perspective makes it easier to spot political shifts.
“When you’re an outsider, you’ve got a better handle on how extreme things are,” he said. “When you are actually here, it’s like a frog being boiled alive slowly — you don’t notice it.”
Staff writers Amy Tsai, Mary Tyler March and Lindsey Brunson contributed reporting.