Photo: NC Advancement Project
The Forward Together movement Moral Monday protests continue to gather momentum in North Carolina. Yesterday they gathered in Charlotte NC to continue protesting draconian voting restrictions legislation, House Bill 589, churned out by Republicans and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.
The central focus of this movement is captured in these words:
“Protection of voting rights must be at the center of a democracy, or do you not have a democracy” Rev. Dr. William Barber, President, NC NAACP.
Amen Rev. Barber, amen.
Local news coverage of the event had headlines like “Thousands turn out for Moral Monday protest in Charlotte”
Protesters held signs and listened to speakers who criticized the GOP agenda.
“They are taking us back 150 years,” Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the crowd. “We are going to fight.” Charlotte, which is home to major businesses such as Duke Power and Bank of America, was the most recent stop for the Moral Monday movement that has drawn thousands of people to weekly demonstrations in Raleigh, part of an area known more for state government offices, universities and technology companies.
The Rev. William Barber said Moral Monday protests are uniting coalitions fighting for social, economic and environmental justice over what he calls divisive measures approved by Republican legislators. Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAAP, is coordinating demonstrations in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts.
He organized a demonstration two weeks ago in Asheville that attracted thousands. In addition to Charlotte, protests were held Monday in the coastal community of Manteo, and in Burnsville in the western North Carolina mountains.
People are taking action, in the streets, and in the courts, and activists are aware that this is a long struggle. We have always faced a long struggle but it will not stop a growing coalition from moving forward.
Earlier this week, voting rights advocates filed three separate lawsuits challenging the new law – two in federal court in Greensboro and one in Orange County Superior Court.
In Greensboro, the North Carolina NAACP and 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton – an African-American woman and veteran election activist whose ability to vote is threatened by the new law – sued the governor and members of the state election board. Together they contend that the voter ID provisions, along with the shortening of the early voting period, the elimination of same-day registration, the rejection of out-of-precinct ballots, and the increase of poll observers and challengers likely to intimidate, disproportionately impact African-American voters, in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Also in Greensboro, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and other groups and individuals sued the state, the governor and election board members, challenging the changes to the early voting period, the elimination of same-day registration, and the rejection of out-of-precinct ballots under the Equal Protections clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In both cases the groups are seeking an injunction delaying implementation of the law until their claims have been resolved by the court. They are also asking the court to subject the state to preclearance under the Section 3 “bail-in” provision of the Voting Rights Act. The plaintiffs in the League of Women Voters case are not, however, challenging the voter ID provisions of the new law in federal court. Instead, with the same lead counsel, the League of Women Voters, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute and other individual voters sued the state and the board of elections in state court, contending that the voter ID provisions impact a broad array of voters, including not only African-American and other minority voters but also women, seniors and college students, in violation of the state constitution.
In Shelby County, a sharply divided Supreme Court tossed out the formula used to identify jurisdictions subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Act – including 40 counties in North Carolina – as outdated. In its aftermath, voting rights advocates bemoaned the loss of a powerful tool against voting discrimination, while state lawmakers here and in other previously covered jurisdictions like Texas rushed to pass long-desired but potentially unlawful voting changes. But Shelby County also forced advocates to reconsider other enforcement tools under the Act and elsewhere in their efforts to combat voter discrimination and suppression. That included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who days after the decision announced renewed Justice Department enforcement of the Act and invited speculation that North Carolina was on his list of targeted states.
“Protecting the fundamental right of our citizens to vote should be among the federal government’s highest priorities.”
NC Senator Josh Stein has called NC voting restrictions “un-American” and “offensive”.
Since signing House Bill 589 on Monday, Governor Pat McCrory has focused on the voter ID aspect mandated by the bill calling it a ‘common sense’ measure.
But Senator Josh Stein says the bill includes dozens of other provisions that have received far less attention, which are clearly un-American. Specifically, the Wake County Democrat says he is troubled that this law eliminates the pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
Stein says he also finds it offensive that since the bill was signed into law that local elections boards in Watauga and Pasquotank counties have moved to dial back the rights of college-age voters.
“The fact that you would eliminate an early voter site at the single largest precinct in a county that just happens to be on a college campus, and then even on election day they are merging three Boone precincts, which is more than 9,000 people, into a single precinct on the second floor with 24 parking spots, It’s just so utterly transparent what they are trying to do,” explained Stein.
The crowd that gathered in Charlotte, like the Moral Monday crowds elsewhere, was very diverse, as facebook photos demonstrate.
The young, the middle-aged and elderly of all colors were out in force.
Photo: facebook Veleria Levy
Photo: facebook Phoenixsong Alysia Stellamaris
If you are not in North Carolina there is still plenty you can do to support the groundswell, by keeping informed and passing the information on. And you can donate.
For those of you in the Washington DC metro area, on November 6, 2013, at Arena Stage, Campaign for America’s Future will be holding a special event, honoring “the best of the progressive movement”. Rev. William J. Barber will be receiving the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award, and the special guest speaker will be Senator Elizabeth Warren.
This groundswell against voting restrictions and disenfranchisement is taking place across the United States, not just in North Carolina. Voter suppression is not just a southern issue, it’s a U.S. citizen issue.
So let’s move forward together, and refuse to let Republicans push us back!
Cross-posted from Black Kos