RALEIGH — Pallbearers bore empty children’s caskets down the streets of Raleigh and around the governor’s mansion in the dying daylight, surrounded by more than 200 somber protestors on Monday.
The youth-led Moral Monday 18 protest was planned on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham bombing that killed four black girls to commemorate their deaths, said Dominique Penny, president of the Youth and College division of the N.C. NAACP.
But Gov. Pat McCrory was not at the mansion — he was at a corporate policy summit in Charleston, S.C. But the Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP, said the march was just as strong without him.
At the rally’s peak, about 250 people marched nearly a mile to protest recent student voting changes and public education budget cuts, said Laurel Ashton, field secretary for the N.C. NAACP.
A new state law requires voters to have a government-issued photo ID but does not allow poll workers to accept college IDs or out-of-state driver’s licenses. It also shortens early voting by a week and ends both same-day voter registration and high school pre-registration.
The rally, which was planned by students in conjunction with the N.C. NAACP, emphasized the role of students as future leaders in political activism.
Student organizations from across the state attended the event, including N.C. Student Power Union and N.C. Vote Defenders.
“(The UNC-system Board of Governors) is trying to tell us that the only thing we are in school for is to get jobs … More importantly, we are learning to be fully participatory citizens in this, our great democracy,” said Dylan Su-Chun Mott, a member of UNC Student Power.
Older protestors said they were fighting for their children.
Susan Eder, 55, a Raleigh doctor who was arrested in the May 20 Moral Monday protest, said her two sons in college don’t want to return to North Carolina because of the political climate.
“It really concerns me that young people leave the state because of the restrictions,” she said.
Although the protests were hosted by university student organizations, some of the younger generation, like Madison Kimrey, 12, also attended to show their involvement in state politics.
Madison had waited for McCrory with a homemade chocolate pound cake at the Bicentinniel Mall on Aug. 22 to discuss the voting law, but McCrory never came. Madison has been active in previous Moral Monday protests.
She said she wants the governor to discuss with her his reasons for signing voting changes into law — not debate them.
“It’ll affect me in the future, and that’s the basic thing,” she said. “I just wanted to talk, why won’t (the legislature) talk?”
Raleigh police blocked off roads around McCrory’s mansion, said the Rev. Albert Barron, field secretary for the N.C. NAACP.
William Barber III, Barber’s son and vice president of the N.C. NAACP Youth and College division, said the college chapters of the NAACP need to be mobilized.
“This isn’t the time to sit back and let grown ups handle it — no, this is the time we must stand up and learn how to fight,” he said. “We can’t run under mama’s skirt in this one — we can’t depend on daddy to fight this one alone.
“As strong as you are, daddy, I can’t let you fight this one alone. I have to get in there with you.”
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