Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Second Year of Moral Mondays Kicks Off With Silent Protest at North Carolina General Assembly - and a Vow to Never Again Be Quieted


May 20, 2014



Sarah Bufkin, NC NAACP - smbufkin@gmail.com or 404.285.3413

Cynthia Gordy, Advancement Project - cgordy@advancementproject.org or 202.341.0555




Second Year of Moral Mondays Kicks Off With Silent Protest at North Carolina General Assembly - and a Vow to Never Again Be Quieted


NC NAACP to Hold Media Conference Call Today at 11:00 a.m.


RALEIGH, NC - Thousands of North Carolinians from across the state gathered yesterday for the first Moral Monday of the new legislative session, continuing to protest against regressive laws passed by extremists in the General Assembly last year. Led by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, protestors called on lawmakers to repent their missteps from last summer, to repeal laws that are hurting the state's most vulnerable residents and to restore North Carolinians' confidence in their ability to govern for the good of the whole.


After first rallying at a packed Bicentennial Mall, the multiracial, interfaith and intergenerational crowd walked inside the General Assembly for nonviolent direct action - in open defiance of rules enacted last week designed to constrict activities inside the legislative building. Wearing tape over their mouths - to dramatize the political tyranny that the new rules represent and to illustrate the voices that would be silenced if the rules go unchallenged - participants entered the building in pairs of two, walking silently through two floors.


Leaders of the Forward Together Moral Movement will discuss Monday's protest, as well as plans for next week's demonstration, in a media conference call today, May 20, at 11:00 a.m. ET (Call-in information below).


"This is the first, last, and only time we will ever put tape over our mouths and be silent," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement, in reference to the vague, arbitrary new building rules that prohibit making noise above a "normal tone of voice" and holding signs that will "disturb" the General Assembly and staff. "We are here to reclaim the General Assembly as the People's House. We have no other choice but to assemble where these bills are being presented, argued and voted upon, in hopes that God will move in the hearts of our legislators."


Dr. Barber also announced that the demonstrations will return to the General Assembly next Tuesday (instead of next Monday, in observance of Memorial Day) for a People's Lobby Day, on which participants will visit the offices of lawmakers to redress their grievances even more directly.


One year after the North Carolina legislature rammed through an avalanche of extreme laws, yesterday's Moral Monday focused on their real-life impact. What was on paper as policy last year is now hurting hundreds of thousands of people, especially the sick, the poor and the state's most vulnerable residents. During the rally, to symbolize the importance of North Carolina caring for everyone's needs - and that the state has enough to care for all its people - participants also broke and shared small loaves of bread together before walking into the General Assembly. 


Among many other laws passed last year, the devastating policy agenda has denied federal funds for Medicaid to 500,000 poor North Carolinians; cut unemployment benefits from 165,000 North Carolinians; taken millions of dollars from public education with a voucher plan to hand out public money to private schools; raised taxes on 900,000 of North Carolina's working poor by ending the Earned Income Tax credit; and enacted the most extreme voter suppression law in the country.


"We are in a state of emergency for the people of North Carolina, and we have to act now," said Dr. Charles van der Horst, a physician from UNC Hospital's Infectious Diseases Division, on the impact of not expanding Medicaid. "There have been now three published studies showing that an estimated one to two thousand North Carolinians will die each year because they lack health insurance. ... This refusal to expand Medicaid is also costing our hospitals and the rest of us millions because people still get sick."


Holly Jordan, a high school teacher from Durham Public Schools and a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators, spoke of Gov. McCrory's plan to fund a teacher pay raise by plundering $49 million from the University of North Carolina system and $122 million from the Department of Health and Human Services. "This is an absolutely unacceptable solution," said Jordan. "You can't rob students and their families to pay teachers."


"The attacks on workers by the corporate-financed North Carolina legislature's agenda shows that the economic recovery sought by big business is one that keeps wages low and restructures work through privatization, sub-contracting, temporary workers and attacks on unions," said Saladin Mohamed, a member of UE 150 and Black Workers for Justice. "It's a recovery for the corporations and the rich - and not for the workers."


Bryan Perlmutter, who was arrested during the first Moral Monday last year as a senior at North Carolina State University, spoke about the work of youth organizers in the movement.


"One year later young people from across the state are still here and still organizing and still fighting back for a better future," said Perlmutter, who now leads a student-run initiative called N.C. Vote Defenders. "We are here because Art Pope, Thom Tillis and the Koch brothers are attempting to silence our voices through new building codes and voter suppression laws, and that is why we must organize. ... We are here to build our own power and to show solidarity across issues because there is only one way for North Carolina to go - and that is forward together."


"Make no mistake about it: this has become the making of something new in the Old North State," Dr. Barber said. "We call on all people of good will to join us, so that we might build the bridges of understanding, not the walls of division." 



WHAT:          Media Conference Call on the second year of Moral Mondays


WHEN:          Today, May 20 at 11:00 a.m. ET


WHERE:       1-800-434-1335; Pass Code: 896629#


WHO:             Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, and other leaders in the Forward Together Moral Movement







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