WIth 10,000 to 20,000 educators expected for Wednesday's “March for Students & Rally for Respect” in Raleigh, you might expect the crowd to gather on Halifax Mall, the big grassy area to the north of the legislative building.
But that space already was taken by another group, the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority's "Divine Nine Legislative Day."
So the teachers have reserved Bicentennial Plaza, the area between the N.C. Museum of History and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, directly across West Jones Street from the legislative building. That's a much smaller space, so organizers are making plans for the crowd to spread out over several downtown blocks.
More than 15,000 educators have signed up for the march and rally, and others are expected to come without registering. The gathering is expected to be the largest act of organized political action by teachers in North Carolina’s history, with event organizers trying to raise attention for education issues and to bring about the Nov. 6 election of leaders who support public education.
Those who want to participate in the march to the state legislature for the start of the 2018 short session will gather at the headquarters of the N.C. Association of Educators at 700 S. Salisbury St. by 9:45 a.m. The march is to begin promptly at 10 a.m.
Mark Jewell, president of NCAE, said that around 10:45 a.m., the group will get as many people into the galleries of the legislature building as possible. The building can hold about 3,000 people, he said.
The General Assembly will convene at noon. At 1 p.m., educators participating in the day’s events will disperse for lunch, to visit legislative offices, downtown museums and businesses and to peruse booths of organizations that will be set up in the surrounding area.
At 3 p.m., the group will hold its rally, with stages and speakers set up on Bicentennial Plaza, though the area can hold fewer than 1,000 people. The rest, Jewell said, will overflow onto the grounds of the Capitol Building, directly to the south.
Activities are expected to wrap up by 4:30 p.m.
Marcie Gordon, a spokeswoman for the state Museum of History, and Jonathan Pishney, spokesman for the Museum of Natural Sciences, said both those facilities are expecting a busy day as teachers and their supporters take breaks.
Both said they expected to be able to accommodate the crowds, though visitors will be asked not to bring political signs into the buildings.
Traffic downtown on Wednesday is expected to be challenging, and parking will be at a premium.