Hours after President Obama spoke at a Washington rally to help mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “March on Washington,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held 13 rallies throughout the state of North Carolina.
The Raleigh event was led by the Rev. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh and Apex branches of the NAACP.
The rally, called the Forward Together Movement, brought a crowd of people who wanted to remember King for his contributions and show their disapproval of North Carolina’s Republican-led government. Although no official attendance estimates were available, police officers on the scene estimated around 250 people were in attendance.
Although the crowd at this event was not in the thousands, as several of the Moral Monday crowds had been, MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO and a speaker at the rally, said she was impressed with the showing.
“When you take into account that there’s a rally in Chapel Hill and in 13 other places, it’s a good crowd,” McMillan said.
McMillan said that that people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds were banding together because they were unhappy with their leaders in the government.
“We see all these attacks on workers in this state–cutting unemployment benefits, denying Medicaid, attacking workers right to organize and our voting rights—and it’s very important that all of us stand together, because that’s the only way we can affect change here,” McMillan said.
The Forward Togther Movement gave supporters of the Moral Monday demonstrations another chance to voice their concerns about the slew of law changes and bills introduced since Gov. Pat McCrory took office.
Although McMillan was upset about the government’s recent decisions, she said she was encouraged by the crowd of diverse people who came together to support the cause.
“We are going to stand together and move forward together until we get our state back and everybody has justice and freedom,” McMillan said.
One of the supporters of the movement was Kevin Sheridan, a 25-year-old employee at Cisco Systems who is also working toward his master’s degree at UNC-Greensboro.
Sheridan dressed in a Captain America-like costume to get his message out, which drew a lot of attention, as he was constantly being asked to pose for photographs
Sheridan said that he dressed that way because he wanted to make sure that people saw his message—and they did.
“As you can see from the pictures, I think it worked out well,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan said he was unhappy with lawmakers because the “sensible economic polices” that were always being talked about were not actually sensible.
“The policies that [lawmakers] are doing are harmful to North Carolina, they’re harmful to the poor, [and] they’re harmful to the middle class,” Sheridan said. “The only people that [policies] help are a very few wealthy people, and that’s not sensible economics—that’s not the driver of the recovery.”
Christopher Hill, director of the Education & Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center and a speaker at the rally, said that education was being hurt as well.
“We need something that encourages student achievement and that is not done with vouchers, that is not done with a proliferation of charter schools, [but] that is done by ensuring that teachers are paid,” Hill said. “It shouldn’t take [teachers] 15 years to make $40,000, and it also should ensure that what we do keep student achievement first so we don’t put pressure on kids—that their teacher may lose their job because they don’t do well on a standardized test.”
As speakers from different backgrounds and different races each spoke their piece, many of the people who were arrested through Moral Mondays were honored, and a few government officials made an appearance.
Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-District 7, Rep. David Price, D-District 4, and Rep. Rosa Gill, D-District 33, each came to the podium to show their support.
The rally ended with a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.