The North Carolina NAACP’s biggest march of the year returns Saturday amid a bitter political climate that’s resulted in large protests almost weekly.
The Moral March on Raleigh and HKonJ People’s Assembly is now in its 11th year, and if the crowds at the recent Women’s March and other events are any indication, it could draw a record crowd.
Last year’s HKonJ – which stands for Historic Thousands on Jones St. – had about 15,000 participants and focused on voting rights. With so many political issues to choose from, Saturday’s event doesn’t have a primary theme and will instead tackle a variety of hot topics in state and national politics.
On the agenda: Rallying support for the Affordable Care Act amid Republican efforts to repeal the health law known as Obamacare, as well as opposition to President Donald Trump’s plans to build a Mexican border wall and his immigration order – which the president of the state NAACP, the Rev. William Barber II, says is “nothing more than a Muslim ban.”
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Barber also says marchers are concerned that Trump has been “inviting white nationalists into the White House” and “turning the attorney general’s office into a place adversarial to voting rights.”
At the state level, march participants plan to voice opposition to racial gerrymandering and support a court ruling – currently on hold pending appeal – that requires the state legislature to redraw legislative districts and hold a special election in November.
They’ll also discuss House Bill 2 and the laws the legislature passed in a December special session limiting Gov. Roy Cooper’s power, which Barber calls “legislative tyranny.”
The NAACP will be joined by about 200 progressive advocacy groups, representing causes ranging from a higher minimum wage to LGBT rights.
The event is set for 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with a rally beginning at 9 a.m. at the corner of Wilmington and South streets near Shaw University. At 10 a.m., participants will march down Wilmington and Fayetteville streets to a rally site near the state Capitol building.
Barber says he’ll speak at noon with a “call to action” announcing the NAACP’s plans for the coming year, which will include a march on congressional offices, a lobbying day and possibly some civil disobedience.
Speakers at the Fayetteville Street rally will include people who are personally affected by the policies that marchers are protesting.
Asked if he expects a record crowd Saturday, Barber said the NAACP doesn’t “do that kind of number comparison,” but he said he’s hopeful that the fervor for protests nationwide in the wake of Trump’s inauguration will continue.
“We know if you organize along a moral agenda – and not left versus right, Democrats versus Republicans – you may not have an immediate electoral victory, but you can begin to change the consciousness of the state and nation,” he said.
The N.C. Republican Party announced Friday it would counter what it called the march’s “radical agenda” with remarks that NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse would make to reporters Saturday morning.
The NAACP isn’t the only group holding a protest Saturday. Abortion opponents are planning events across the country at Planned Parenthood clinics calling on the federal government to cut funding to the organization.
A website for that event includes a protest at the Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill, as well as at locations in Winston-Salem and Fayetteville. The conservative N.C. Values Coalition posted on Facebook encouraging its members to attend.
Road closures for Saturday’s march
Expect heavy traffic and blocked streets in downtown Raleigh on Saturday morning for the Moral March on Raleigh and the HKonJ People’s Assembly:
▪ From 3 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fayetteville Street will be closed to traffic between Morgan and Davie streets.
▪ From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., South Street between Salisbury and Wilmington streets and Hargett Street between Salisbury and Wilmington streets will be closed.
▪ From 9:50 a.m. until noon, the march will take place from South Street between Salisbury and Wilmington streets, where marchers will head east, take a left on Wilmington Street, left on Davie Street, right on Fayetteville Street and finish in the 100 block of Fayetteville Street, all of which will be closed to traffic.