Led by the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Movement, well over 5,000 demonstrators braved the freezing temperatures Saturday to march down the Fayetteville Street Mall in downtown Raleigh to the steps of the state Capital, where speaker after speaker addressed issues like immigration, improving education and the state providing more affordable healthcare for poor families.
But the central issue for the march was the suppression of voting rights, and Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP and convener of the Forward Together Movement, made it clear that they would fight to the end to protect those rights.
“When you want decrease and suppress voter participation so you can rule by default; when you draw racially motivated redistricting political maps that segregate black voters and disallow black and white people and Latino voters from coming together to elect candidates of their choice. That’s a crime against democracy! And we must fight back!” declared Rev. Barber.
The civil rights leader, along with Bob Hall, executive of the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina, called for 5,000 volunteers to help monitor the polls statewide during the March primaries and the Nov. 8th general election.
The March 15th primaries, moved up from the traditional May date because Republican lawmakers wanted North Carolina to play more of an early role in help selecting the party’s nominee for president, will be the first time since the 2013 state law requiring voter photo ID that it will actually be in force.
The NCNAACP/Forward Together Movement have always called voter ID a violation of constitutional rights, given that all that is legally required is for a voter to be 18 years of age and an American citizen. A federal court just heard testimony in a federal suit against Gov. Pat McCrory and the state Legislature, regarding voter ID, and the new requirement that those without one must fill out a “reasonable impediment” excuse in order to cast a provisional ballot, which could still be challenged and thrown out.
In his remarks before the Moral Marchers, Rev. Barber reiterated that the NCNAACP will continue fighting voter restriction laws in the courts, and in the streets.
“The fight for voting rights is personal for me,” Rev. Barber said, recounting how his family has had to fight for them all of his life. “And it is a battle that we will not turn back from now.”
The vote is at the “heart of our democracy,” Barber said. “This is why we’re so concerned, when politics is more a struggle over money and manipulation, than a struggle over of ideas.”
Rev. Barber said when politicians suppress the vote, they want the people to become “slaves to their decisions without citizens having the ability to register their discontent at the ballot box.”
“Any politicians who try to suppress the vote are committing a crime against democracy,” Barber charged, who then blasted the Republican-led state Legislature for “stacking and packing” black voters into the First and Twelfth Congressional Districts, a move the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled to be unconstitutional, and lawmakers are scrambling to fix by Feb. 19th for the March 15th primaries.
“We suggest [lawmakers] repent now and begin keeping their promise to protect and defend the Constitution,” Rev. Barber said. •