Hundreds of people could turn out on Franklin Street today for a N.C. NAACP rally protesting new laws passed by the N.C. General Assembly.
The “Taking the Dream Home to Chapel Hill” rally will be held at the Peace and Justice Plaza and will occur simultaneously with rallies happening across the state. The rallies, which will take place in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts, will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
Other rallies today
There will be 13 rallies held in each N.C. congressional district:
- Elizabeth City
The Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, said the rallies’ objectives are twofold: to demonstrate the impact of recently passed legislation on North Carolinians and to encourage N.C. legislators to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which had prohibited North Carolina and other states from making changes to their voting laws without approval from the federal government.
The Rev. Robert Campbell, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, said the rallies are a part of a grassroots movement in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.
“We want to energize and mobilize and keep the movement going,” Campbell said.
The Chapel Hill rally’s keynote speakers will include the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church and Laurel Ashton, field secretary of the N.C. NAACP. Other speakers will include former Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, and Gene Nichol, a professor at the UNC School of Law and the director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
Nichol said the rally is an offshoot of the Moral Monday movement, and many of the rally’s supporters went to Washington, D.C. last weekend to celebrate the anniversary of King’s March on Washington.
“Part of the theory is bringing back the atmosphere to home,” Nichol said. “I think, to be candid, that the governor and the General Assembly have engaged in a war on poor people throughout this session.”
‘Movement, not a moment’
Barber, who has coordinated the Moral Monday protests this summer, said he is hopeful that today’s events across the state can prolong the group’s efforts.
“It is a movement, not a moment,” Barber said. “It’s far from over.”
Sally Bethune, a seventh-generation North Carolinian and a volunteer with the Orange County Democratic Party, said she got involved with the rally because she felt it was the right thing to do.
She said the Republican-dominated legislature is putting up barriers to voting.
“We should be making it easier for people to vote,” Bethune said. “The road blocks are being put in front of those that would probably vote Democratic.”
As Chapel Hill prepares to host the rally, event organizers have been working closely with the police to ensure it runs smoothly.
“We’ve never had problems with safety and Moral Monday because people know why they come, even though we did at times have people get arrested,” Barber said. “We all stand as a nonviolent tradition of the civil rights movement.”
He said the groups involved in the rally do not anticipate arrests.
“We let the police go do their job, and we always maintain safety and order,” Barber said.
“We are focused on the issues.”
Lt. Kevin Gunter, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said police will monitor the crowd and maintain traffic flow in the area.
“We’re going to have enough officers there and enough officers on standby in case the crowd is larger than anticipated,” Gunter said.
Campbell said he estimated a turnout of 500 to 1,000 people at the event.
But Campbell and Barber both said regardless of the size of the rally, they’re optimistic about its impact.
“Our goal is to shape and shift the consciousness of the community,” Barber said. “When the people’s consciousness is awakened and shaken, then the people of North Carolina and America tend to do the right thing and they tend to turn things around when they’re going in the wrong direction.”
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