'Moral' movement caps off summer in downtown Raleigh

08/28/2014 7:24 PM

08/29/2014 5:41 AM

The Moral Monday & Forward Together movement ended a summer of statewide work with a week of gatherings in downtown Raleigh with a final event in which roughly 200 people circled the State Capitol and reiterated the central demands of massive gatherings last year.

The scenes were familiar – the Rev. William Barber II challenging State Capitol Police Chief Glen Allen, pithy protest signs aloft, songs echoing through Bicentennial Plaza – though the event didn’t aim for the scale of the marches that drew thousands last summer.

Thursday was an opportunity for parting shots at state leaders.

Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate leader Phil Berger and House leader Thom Tillis, Barber declared, “have a propensity to lie.” He questioned whether Tillis, who is campaigning to unseat Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate, was trying to “fool people” into thinking he was politically moderate.

But Republican leaders who have shepherded the changes and the sharp political swing to the right in North Carolina say they are carrying out the will of the people who voted them into office. They cite a mandate to cut taxes and curb state spending to spur economic growth and jobs.

Inside the Capitol – after a brief debate with police about signs – Barber and a vanguard of protesters laid out proposed policy changes, signs in tow.

Among their requests were: Restore the state’s repealed Racial Justice Act; end the 2013 tax cuts that flattened and reduced rates; eliminate barriers to undocumented residents; forbid charter schools from rejecting students; drop changes to voting districts and requirements; and accept an expansion of Medicaid.

Before several cameras, Barber put his arm around white-coated Jason Sonnenschien, a physician assistant in Orange County, who called for the Medicaid expansion. “I work in primary care, treating underserved patients,” Sonnenschien, 30, explained.

“This is raw,” Barber said. “This is unlike anything they’ve ever seen in fusion politics. They never thought they’d see me and this brother together.”

Protesters outside, meanwhile, wrapped around outside, shouting “This is what hypocrisy looks like,” while pointing at the old stone building, which houses an office for McCrory.

For Tyler Swanson, 20, the event marked the end of a summer of activism in Iredell County, where he spent long days registering voters.

“The movement has kind of built that momentum across the state,” said Swanson, a senior at N.C. A&T State University. He’s working now toward this fall’s midterm elections.

“There’s this big myth that your vote doesn’t count,” he said, pointing out President Barack Obama’s razor-thin margin of victory here in 2008.

Beyond November, organizers with the NAACP are looking to February, when the Moral March on Raleigh – with Barber likely at its fore – will resume.

Hundreds later assembled for a rally at Bicentennial Mall, while dozens of young people staged a "teach-in" at the Capitol.

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