Activists rally against layoffs

staff writerSeptember 18, 2011 

— A week of intense political activity in Raleigh was capped Saturday with about 100 liberal activists marching to the N.C. Republican Party headquarters on Hillsborough Street to protest public sector layoffs.

"Hi, ho, the Tea Party must go!" the crowd chanted under gray skies outside The Joyce and John W. Pope Family building.

Marching started a half-mile down the road at the Junior League of Raleigh, where the Black Workers for Justice hosted the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a collection of environmental and human rights activists.

They had convened downtown to organize future lobbying efforts against war spending and environmental deregulation.

But organizers and participants also saw fit to rally against recent actions by North Carolina's GOP-run General Assembly - namely, layoffs to public sector workers, including 8,000 jobs lost in public education statewide, and the bill passed last week that puts a state constitutional ban on gay marriage to a vote.

"(Republicans) try to make us believe that what someone does in their bedroom is relevant in putting us to work and putting food on our table," said Nathanette Mayo of Raleigh, who said she represented the N.C. Public Service Workers Union.

"We have to show them we're not going to just sit back and take it."

As they posed for photographs on the back steps of the Junior League building, protestors droned in unison: "Got to give, give the people what they want."

The group then followed Black Workers for Justice member Ajamu Dillahunt, who, in his tan blazer and dark slacks, led the march down Hillsborough Street.

A couple blocks before reaching the GOP headquarters, Dillahunt stopped the march on the front steps of an AFL-CIO building.

"What we are witnessing here is a crime scene," he said through a loudspeaker.

"And the criminals are on Jones Street and in Washington attacking the public sector. Clearly the shift in political power has been detrimental to working people."

Tony McKinnon Sr., a postal worker from Fayetteville, welcomed the protestors on behalf of the AFL-CIO. In his leather jacket and sunglasses, McKinnon urged protestors to march more frequently as election season nears.

"The AFL-CIO stands behind you," McKinnon said. "We must demand that we get back what is ours: decent wages, good schools and health care."

Besides their disdain for Republican policy, the protesters also said the march was meant to signify their disappointment with President Barack Obama's American Jobs Act, which he touted while speaking at N.C. State's Reynolds Coliseum last week.

"It doesn't go far enough," Dillahunt said in an interview, pointing to the Tar Heel state's 10.4 percent unemployment rate. "We need to continue to push for more."

"People had great hopes when (Obama) was elected, but you can't compromise on everything and think that it will benefit the majority," said Mayo, who led the chants outside GOP headquarters.

"No war, no warming, build the people's economy," she belted, clapping on a tambourine as the crowd echoed her calls.

"There are still too many public sector employees losing their jobs," Mayo said.

"We've got to express our outrage because it seems no one is listening."

aspecht@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4826

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