01/21/14 — Marchers join state protests

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Marchers join state protests

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on January 21, 2014 1:46 PM

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Wilbur Barnes holds a sign of support as Tricia Haigler applauds while North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. William Barber speaks during the Moral Monday rally on the steps of Goldsboro City Hall.

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Barber addresses issues with voting rights and unemployment benefits as he continues to lead statewide rallies against legislation passed by the current Republican governor and legislature.

North Carolina NAACP President William Barber led a "Moral Monday" march down Center Street Monday to protest what he says are unfair Republican policies and to drum up support for a Feb. 8 march in Raleigh.

Monday's march, sponsored by the Wayne and Greene county NAACP chapters, began with a rally in front of Goldsboro City Hall at 4 p.m.

Since trying to disrupt the Legislature this past session with weekly protests, Barber has taken the march campaign statewide.

On Monday he told a crowd of about 200 people to let their elected leaders hear their disapproval.

"Today we're gonna be just like an open mic, we're gonna preach," he said. "I just left South Carolina and preached underneath the Confederate flag. I wasn't scared. I said forget that flag, ain't nobody gonna turn me 'round. I'm gonna keep on walking, keep on walking to freedom," Barber said.

District 5 State Sen. Don Davis, the only local representative who received a passing grade on the NAACP's report card, attended the march. Davis' comments on the event were tempered by the solemn occasion.

"Today is a time to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," he said.

The Rev. Larry Johnson, co-chairman of the march committee, said the reason for the march was three-fold.

Johnson said the focus was first to support Moral Monday. He also said that the event was to let elected representatives know that marchers will not stand for the policies passed over the past two years that have, in their opinion, hurt the poor. Finally, the event was also organized to drum up support for the Feb. 8 march.

The marchers lined up three across and headed south for the Paramount Theatre. Police officers on bicycles were dispatched to block intersections coming in to Center Street during the march.

Goldsboro Police Chief Jeff Stewart said that the proper permits were secured for a parade between 3:30 and 5:30 and he just wanted to make sure no one was hurt in a traffic accident.

Among the protesters were teachers angered by what they deem unfair cuts and policy changes.

"I am marching to put professionalism back in the profession. I want to bring respect back to the job," Michelle Darden said.

The slogan for the march was, "Forward together, not one step back."

After completing the two block march to the Paramount, the participants went inside to hear speakers on a variety of topics, including voting rules, education, abortion rights and Medicaid benefits.

Greene County delegates echoed their Wayne County counterparts.

"While Greene County is one-sixth the size of Wayne County we have the same problems," Greene County NAACP President Ben Lanier said. "Unemployment is six percent. How is that possible? I think our people are discouraged and aren't even looking anymore."

Speakers also talked about voter suppression, the state not approving the expansion of Medicaid, environmental policies, abortion rights, the rights of homosexuals, discrimination against convicts after they are released, poverty, emergency unemployment benefits and labor rights.

Barber said people need to focus on changing things at home first.

"To change America you need to change the South. To change the South, you need to change your state, state by state," he said.

He called the Legislature's action "very low, mighty low," and was no less critical of Gov. Pat McCrory, noting that McCrory signs Republican-driven laws "with a grin on his face."

The Raleigh march will begin 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 8 with at with a gathering at Shaw University. Marchers will leave from there for Jones Street, the site of the General Assembly.