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NAACP calls for economic boycott of North Carolina

NAACP board member Rev. Dr. William Barber addresses the press at the conference in Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh on Tuesday. NC NAACP and Democracy NC joined with faith leaders to discuss a mass voter engagement campaign.
NAACP board member Rev. Dr. William Barber addresses the press at the conference in Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh on Tuesday. NC NAACP and Democracy NC joined with faith leaders to discuss a mass voter engagement campaign.

National NAACP National President Cornell William Brooks and N.C. state NAACP President Rev. William Barber proposed the boycott in a press conference on Friday in Raleigh.

“The NAACP refuses to accept this attack on democracy or the commoditization of bias against people due to racial or gender identity here in North Carolina or anywhere else around the nation,” Brooks said in a statement. “This we will fight against with all of our resources until we win.”

North Carolina’s situation represents the state of the country, Barber said in the a statement.

“What has happened in North Carolina makes this state a battleground over the soul of America and whether our nation is sincere about making democracy real for all people, not just those with the right bank account, right sexuality or right skin,” Barber said.

The NAACP set forth six conditions under which it would end the proposed economic boycott, it said in the press release.

Among them are a full repeal of House Bill 2; a repeal of Senate Bill 4, one of the final laws signed by former Gov. Pat McCrory that limited the powers of the incoming governor; and a complete replacement of racially gerrymandered voting districts with fair alternatives.

Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, said the boycott became necessary when other methods of protest proved ineffective.

“Sometimes, when you appeal to the moral conscience of people who don’t appear to have one, you have to hit them in language that they understand,” Richards said. “That is, economically.”

Richards cited the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Greensboro sit-ins of segregated lunch counters as evidence of effective economic boycotts.

“This is not a new tactic, but it has proven to be effective in the face of a lack of morality in the past,” she said.

Several Republican legislators, including N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, called on Gov. Roy Cooper to denounce the boycott.

“It’s time for him to show some leadership as North Carolina’s governor, condemn William Barber’s attempt to inflict economic harm on our citizens, and work toward a reasonable compromise that keeps men out of women’s bathrooms,” Berger said in a statement.

Ferrel Guillory, a UNC School of Media and Journalism journalism professor, has his reservations about the boycott. He said HB2 has already cost the state millions of dollars in business, with plenty of organizations pulling out of North Carolina after the law’s passage.

“The kind of boycott they’re proposing... would it end up hurting some of the people that the NAACP wants to help.?” Guillory said.

There is already a large amount of pressure on the General Assembly to repeal HB2, Guillory said — and any additional pressure from an economic boycott might be offset by its potential costs.

“My worry is whether a consumer boycott would end up being to the detriment of the low-wage workers who work in consumer- based enterprises,” Guillory added.

Richards said these populations have already been affected.

“People are hurting already in our state, more than some (other states),” she said.

CoAnd consequences have been felt beyond bathroom restrictions, Richards said, adding that minimum wage and suits for employment discrimination were further affected by HB2.

A bill to repeal HB2 filed Feb. 22 last Wednesday — which was touted as a compromise by some Republican legislators — has received criticism from Cooper and other LGBTQ rights advocates for not providing enough protections for transgender people and from Cooper for putting the fate of a minority group into the hands of the majority..

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Guillory said the best resolution is a full repeal of the bill but that Republican legislators feel obligated to appease their constituencies.

“It’s become difficult (for) to Republicans because they are in very conservative constituencies and they’re expected to ‘get something’ out of voting for a repeal,” he said. “The state is polarized, and a large segment of Republican contingencies don’t want a straight repeal.”