Diverse crowd marches in Raleigh to champion civil rights, healthcare and immigration at HKonJ People’s Assembly
Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, but organizers of the North Carolina NAACP’s biggest march of the year say weather reports won’t dampen their resolve to come together in the state capital for a rally, march and renewal of a call to action.
The Moral March on Raleigh and HKonJ People’s Assembly is now in its 12th year, and the event on Saturday will bring together some of the old with the new.
This is the first year that the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman will lead the march as the new president of the state NAACP, but he'll do so with a familiar ally by his side.
The Rev. William J. Barber II, who led the organization from 2005 through the many Moral Monday protests until last fall, will be back in the capital city after taking his new campaign to help the poor and disenfranchised to the national and international stage.
“Our theme this year is taking the resistance to the ballot box,” Spearman said.
The HKonJ People’s Assembly — which stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street, where the General Assembly meets — grew from a coalition that formed in 2007 to rally for a 14-point agenda.
Over the years, the coalition has fought for higher wages, better health care for all, more funds for public education, criminal justice reform and voting rights in a state often referred to as one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering.
It fought House Bill 2, the controversial “bathroom bill” that would have forced transgender people to use the restroom in government buildings according to the gender listed on their birth certificates, which since has been partially repealed.
Through protests and lawsuits filed by the NAACP, the coalition has been active in calling attention to laws adopted since 2011 that weakened the overall influence of minority voters —such as the elections law overhaul that included a voter ID requirement and cut the number of days before an election that people can vote. It also has been involved with going to court over redistricting plans that since have been declared unconstitutional racial or partisan gerrymanders.
People plan to begin gathering at 8:30 a.m. at the corner of Wilmington and South streets near Shaw University. After a rally there, where Spearman said he expected a “passing of the torch across generations” to take place, participants will start marching at 10 a.m. down Wilmington and Fayetteville streets to a rally site near the state Capitol building. Parts of Wilmington and Fayetteville streets will be blocked off between 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., organizers said.
With the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, uncertain, El Pueblo, a Triangle-based Latino advocacy organization, will be at the rally, too.
This year, too, the organization plans to have speakers talk about LGBT rights.
The annual march and rally has been held in inclement weather before, Tyler Swanson, the state NAACP communications director, noted.
“Rain or shine,” Swanson said, the issues “will be on our minds.”