Chants of “Forward together, not one step back” rang through downtown Winston-Salem Monday evening as the N.C. NAACP brought its Moral March to the Polls initiative to town.
Hundreds assembled at Corpening Plaza to show their opposition to new GOP-enacted laws that many believe curtail the voting rights of some North Carolinians. The protestors’ gripes go far beyond voting; the Republican-led General Assembly has also been excoriated for cutting teacher pay and benefits and refusing to expand Medicaid to provide coverage to the state’s poorest.
“We want our legislators to provide assistance to make our state government responsible and accountable to the needs of our community,” said Rev. Williard Bass, president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, one of several groups that aided the NAACP in organizing the event. “We can make a difference. There are consequences to voting, to elections, to officials who don’t act in the interest of their citizens.”
Rev. George Banks, pastor of Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and a Minsters Conference member, asked participants to keep in mind scriptures from the Book of Isaiah.
“This fight for voting rights is a fight for justice and righteousness,” he said. “Jesus Christ preached a social gospel rooted in justice for all.”
Earlier in the day, a judge at Winston-Salem’s Federal Building heard initial arguments in the NAACP legal challenge to the voting laws, which include a voter ID requirement, the elimination of same-day voting/registration and a shortening of the early voting period. The NAACP is asking for an injunction to halt the implementation of the laws ahead of the 2014 midterms.
N.C. NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II told the Corpening Plaza crowd that they were fighting for rights that were earned from the blood of those who protested, and died, before them.
“This week, we fight and litigate in court against what unmistakably is the worst attack on voting rights and the worst attempt to comprehensively abridge the right to vote since Jim Crow,” Barber said. “House Bill 589 is about the intentional identification of voters that extremists feel may not support their political ideology and because of that they conjure up and pass laws to suppress and exclude those voters and their opportunities at the ballot box.”
Rex Bishop traveled from Greensboro to attend the rally. She called the voter I.D. bill ludicrous.
“I am extremely disturbed by the voter I.D. law, which is more than just presenting an I.D. at the polls,” Bishop said. “I went to Raleigh a couple of months ago and it was hard to keep my mouth shut because the whole idea is based on voter fraud, which is ridiculous.”
William Hairston Jr. brought his 10-year-old granddaughter Kayla Flowers to the rally so that she could learn about the importance of voting.
“I wanted her to see first-hand what was going on in North Carolina and why people need to vote,” he said.
Kayla gleaned from the event that voting is an important right that everyone should have.
“Even though we are a different color or a different sex, it doesn’t mean anything,” she said.
Barber announced that protesters will be back in Raleigh beginning Aug. 21 for a seven day protest to continue efforts to fight voter suppression.