Freeman, an Asheville resident, said she has only small hopes for the governor’s ability to collaborate with legislators for positive change.
“I have hopes that (Gov. Roy Cooper will) do what he can to stop the stuff that’s coming down and protect local communities,” Freeman said of state politics.
North Carolinians must fight back against a string of troubling policies, said Freeman, who now attends one to two marches per week.
“I’m here for my friends; I’m here for my nieces and nephews,” Freeman said of her presence at the march. “You know, I’m here for myself as a queer woman.”
The N.C. NAACP estimated the crowd might have hit record highs, surpassing the 80,000 present in 2014.
Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Durham, present for the march, said it’s the largest crowd he’s seen for the event.
“I think our base is very fired up, and people are showing up for public events like this,” Meyer said. “We need the base activists to keep that passion going all the way through the next election.”
For Kristen Mark of Durham, HKonJ was a chance to do more after the election.
“I’ve been doing every march possible — went to the Women’s March (on Washington), went out to the airport a few weeks ago.”
Though the turnout for HKonJ was smaller than Washington’s, Mark said it made her proud to live in the state and the South.
Karen Carlton said she thought HKonJ had a more diverse crowd than Raleigh’s women’s march, and that she couldn’t be happier with the weekend’s efforts.
“We’re thrilled with the turnout — we were stuck in traffic for about 25 minutes,” she said.
Anastasia Soule, a UNC sophomore, said the crowd’s diversity could be at least partially attributed to the leadership of the N.C. NAACP.
Her sign, which read “stop pretending that your racism is patriotism” spoke to the “Make America Great Again” campaign.
"...They try to justify strong borders and anti-immigration, the Muslim ban — based off this American idea,” she said. “But it’s definitely racist at its core.”
Kate Weinel and Camilla Powierza, two UNC medical students, said they came to the march to emphasize the need for health care, and for preserving parts of the Affordable Care Act that address mental illness.
Powierza, who also attended the march two years ago, said the group has been in contact with medical schools and groups nationwide.
Dinesh McCoy, former co-president of the Campus Y and 2015 graduate of UNC, said this marked his third march.
“Even when I was at school, the North Carolina (General Assembly) was still cutting back on public education, not expanding Medicaid, doing a lot of things that I think are morally reprehensible and hurt the most vulnerable people,” McCoy said.
And the recent shift in national politics has further affected the situation.
McCoy’s sign addressed Islamophobia and featured the silhouettes of Deah Barakat and Yusor and Razan Abu-Sahla, who were killed in Chapel Hill in 2015.
He said he hopes Cooper will be a voice pushing back in the state — though he worries legislators will follow the example of Republicans in Congress who tried to obstruct former President Barack Obama’s policy efforts.
McCoy said while themes of love and justice persisted at the Raleigh march, there was a more realistic tone.
“I think this is more of a sense that real people are getting hurt in a tangible way,” he said. “And of course people were before, but this is just more intentional than that.”