Chapel Hill rallies for justice
Several hundred people jammed Justice Plaza to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
Many also used the occasion to take shots at the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, which critics contend is turning back the clock to a darker, meaner time in American History.
Bruce M. Ervin is of that opinion. He carried a banner that said “Welcome to N.C. Turn Your Clock Back 50 years.”
Ervin, 70, said it’s important to keep the state moving in the right direction.
“We want it moving forward,” Ervin said. “We don’t want to go back.”
The rally, coming 50 years after The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, was one of 13 occurring in each of North Carolina’s congressional districts.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and other organizations that organized the rally said the goal is to shine a light on what they believe are “unconstitutional and immoral acts” of the state’s General Assembly and to demand that North Carolina representatives fight to renew Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
That section required nine states and dozens of cities and counties with a history of discrimination at the polls to get approval from the U.S. Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws.
Closer to home, the organizers are challenging new voting laws approved by the Republican-controlled legislature this year that limits early voting, prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from preregistering and requires ID before voting.
David Caldwell Jr. said if Republicans continue to have their way, the situation will get worse for people in need of health care and other social services.
“There are so many things they’re cutting,” Caldwell said. “It’s to the point where if we don’t do something about it, we’re going to be trying to survive with the crumbs left on the table.”
The rally featured nearly a dozen speakers, including former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who resigned Aug. 19.
Like many in the audience, the Republican majority in the legislature was foremost on the speakers’ minds.
Gene Nichol, director of UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, noted that King described himself as a malcontent who could never watch idly why the nation’s leaders passed policies to enrich the wealthiest citizens while the poor became poorer.
“I call on all Americans of goodwill to be maladjusted,” Nichol said.