ASHEVILLE — The president of the state NAACP urged people to vote out politicians he called extremists during the Mountain Moral Monday rally at Pack Square Park. The crowd on Monday was about 3,500, according to a police estimate.
The Rev. William Barber told the crowd: “The real judge of the movement's success is whether it is changing the state's policies and influencing its lawmakers, and that is happening in North Carolina,” he said, offering as evidence what he called an effort by the legislature to appear kinder and gentler…. Lawmakers in the General Assembly made things bad last year and they have simply made things worse this year."
His speech hit many of the themes impacting North Carolina: The state legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory, he said, are hurting the poor by failing to expand Medicaid and even cutting the program in the budget passed in the legislative short session this summer. For the past 67 weeks, Barber had led the civil disobedience campaign called Moral Mondays at the North Carolina General Assembly.
The General Assembly is also harming the environment by clearing the way for the controversial practice of hydraulic natural gas mining called fracking, other rally speakers said. They have marginalized a group of state residents by amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, the speakers said.
The more than 50 organizations listed as sponsors, included WNC-Sylva affiliate. Three of our members attended and assisted MABCO (MTA-Asheville-Buncombe County) in its efforts to secure MTA petition signatures from the crowd.
Five NAACP branches have formed in Western North Carolina in the past year, bringing traditionally Asheville-centered activism into outlying counties. Among these is the historic founding of a branch in Jackson County, where MTA WNC-Sylva members helped organize and now are serving on its original Executive Committee.
Barber reminded the crowd that since 2007, thousands have marched on Raleigh—even when Democrats were in power—but back then, he said, leaders would meet protesters "and be reasonable." Now, lawmakers are hurting schools and children by not adequately funding education. They have taken away rights through sweeping restrictions on how people vote. He took aim at the deep tax cuts for the rich and corporations, saying it will mean $5 billion less in revenue for the state. Barber noted that the state constitution says caring for the poor is among the government's first priorities and this General Assembly has failed them.
He urged people to vote out politicians he called extremists during the Mountain Moral Monday rally at Pack Square Park—every person at the rally should commit to register 10-15 new voters.
"Today is not just Moral Monday but it's the moral march to the polls," he said. "We must blow the minds of MSNBC and CNN when November comes. We must make them say we ain't never seen nothing like this before. It's time for the new South to rise again."