Group targets Art Pope’s pocketbook

Dec. 23, 2013 @ 03:02 PM

The Durham branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wants people to participate in today’s Moral Monday and to not spend their money at Roses or Maxway.

During their last meeting for the year on Sunday at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, the NAACP called for solidarity as it tries to thin the wallet of Art Pope, state budget director and CEO, chairman and president of Variety Wholesalers.

“What are you willing to give up to help your brother because you are your brother’s keeper?” asked Fred Foster, president of the Durham Branch of the NAACP. “You need to know that the person you give your money to when you shop at Roses or Maxway is a man who works for a dollar a month. Why would he rather work for a dollar than the millions he made running Roses and Maxway? Because now he writes the budget for the state of North Carolina.”

NAACP North Carolina, along with other groups, have planned informational pickets near Roses and Maxway department stores to inform customers about where their money goes.

“We’re starting to make an impact,” Foster said. “We’re not after him. We’re after his pocketbook.”

The groups organizing the pickets have said that Pope is a prominent donor to various accounts that gave money to groups that later gave money to the state’s 2010 elections.

Since then, the group says, the Republican-controlled state General Assembly has passed policies that harm people in the communities where Pope’s stores are located, primarily low-income neighborhoods.

Earlier this month, state NAACP president the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber sent a letter to Pope, saying, “as the Budget Director for North Carolina and one of the architects of the extremist policies and laws adopted this year by the NC General Assembly, you have supported denial of the expansion of Medicaid to 500,000 people, cuts in unemployment benefits to 170,000 people, and many other regressive, mean-spirited policies.”

Barber asked Pope to support those who have supported him by shopping in his stores by calling for the reversal of extremist laws and policies and support a request for a Redemptive Session of the General Assembly to laws that adversely affect many across the state.

“It may be inconvenient to go down a few miles to another store, but it helps 170,000 unemployed people and 500,000 people that won’t have Medicaid expansion,” Foster said. “Someone’s not going to have a merry Christmas.”

In response to Barber’s letter, Pope expressed his shock in a letter of his own that Barber and his “allies would demand any public official  to support your political positions, by threatening a business which is not part of state government.”

Pope said in his letter that Roses and Maxway stores are in what Barber defined as “working class and minority communities” but they provide jobs to those communities, noting that more than 44 percent of Variety Wholesalers and Roses store employees are black.
 
In his letter, Pope said that he has worked in favor of the voting rights of blacks and that his actions are no different than those of Barber and his supporters who support democratic candidates.
 
“However, in a free and small 'd' democratic society, every citizen should be free to support the candidates of their choice, and advocate the policies they believe in, without retaliation,” Pope said. “But I do think we share a common goal of alleviating poverty.”

The Durham branch asks people attending today’s Moral Monday at Halifax Mall in Raleigh to bring a battery operated candle to the protest.