RALEIGH — A coalition led by North Carolina’s NAACP wrapped up a week of protests on Thursday with speeches, call-and-response chants and a march around the state Capitol.
About 150 people circled the Capitol seven times and stopped during each pass to allow speakers to address different themes including labor and voting rights. They were planning to gather before a nearby stage to hear remarks on voting rights from the head of the state NAACP, coinciding with the 51st anniversary of the March on Washington led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the march, one of the organizers would shout: “A people ….”
And the rest of the group would respond: “… united will never be defeated.”
Other chants included: “Let the people vote!” and “Everybody in; nobody out!”
NAACP leaders in several other states were planning protests at their own state capitols this month. North Carolina’s demonstrations have been led by the organizers of the “Moral Monday” protests of conservative public policy at the North Carolina Legislature.
About 250 people gathered in a plaza near the Capitol to hear remarks by state NAACP leader the Rev. William Barber. Referencing several milestones from the Civil Rights era, Barber said: “every time we’ve come together, we have changed the nation.”
“We come here as heirs, beneficiaries, and protectors of all that many before us won through blood sweat and tears,” he said.
Barber said he flew back Thursday morning from Missouri where he met with groups “wrestling with how to make things fair.” He said he shared lessons from the North Carolina protests.
He also commended participants in the Monday protests in North Carolina, which were dedicated to youth issues. He said the aim of the group on Monday was to take “take pain and turn it into power” and protest events such as the recent shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
“Our young people became the prophets of a new age,” he said.
Angie Wells, a member of the Communication Workers of America union from Charlotte, told the crowd a story about her hard-working grandfather, who was a union member and railroad worker. He wasn’t able to read his mail, so she would do it for him. She says he understood the power of education and how it could help her and her mother.
She then compared her grandfather with state House Speaker Thom Tillis, whom demonstrators blame for what they see as inadequate education funding by the Legislature.
“My grandfather knew more than Thom Tillis,” she said. “It’s extreme, and it’s immoral. And it’s wrong!”
The demonstrations have focused on a different theme each day since beginning a week ago. Leola Jones, 70, of Louisburg, said all of the topics were important to her, but especially voting rights.
“We came out to try to get some of this stuff turned around,” she said.