The NAACP is leading the 860-mile march, which began Aug. 1 — 50 years after the bill was passed. Participants have traveled the Southern states from Alabama through Georgia and South Carolina, and will end in Washington, D.C., in two weeks.
The march aims to highlight a different economic or political challenge for each state it visits. North Carolina’s focus was voting rights.
Cornell Brooks, president of the NAACP, was one of several who spoke at the rally in front of the N.C. State Capitol following the march.
“We march because our people shed blood, sweat and tears for the right to vote,” Brooks said. “We’re marching across the five states that were previously covered by the Voting Rights Act that are left today civically naked and unprotected.”
The N.C. General Assembly legislated in 2013 that a valid form of ID is required to vote. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging the law on the basis of discriminatory intent, but legislators made an amendment this summer to allow exemptions in certain cases in which voters lack appropriate identification. Arguments to decide if the original charges still had merit were heard last week.
Caroline Lindsay, who graduated from UNC in 1952, said she and her husband have participated in marches for voting rights for more than 60 years.
“We needed to be here,” Lindsay said. “It is the most restrictive voting law in the land. We need to fight to get it turned around so that everyone can vote.”
The Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP and an outspoken critic of the state’s voter ID law, spoke about the long struggle African-Americans have faced against discrimination.
“(They say that) because things change, and there’s not as much discrimination, then we don’t need protection from discrimination,” Barber said. “But the Constitution doesn’t make a provision for a little bit of discrimination. It says equal protection under the law. Period.”
Raleigh resident Jacquie Ayala is also no stranger to the march’s cause. Ayala has participated in several NAACP events statewide and is active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I am here to support those who are most impacted by the changes to the voting rights law,” she said. “I showed up to act in solidarity, show support and demand change from our legislators.”