Protests Over Republican Policies Intensify in North Carolina

With more than 300 people arrested in acts of civil disobedience, the North Carolina NAACP says it will step up its campaign and register new voters.

Posted: 06/07/2013 03:32 PM EDT

The campaign to protest policies of North Carolina’s Republican legislature and governor is escalating with civil rights groups and others intensifying the level of civil disobedience and other activities, including voter registration, to draw attention to the issue.

More than 300 people have been arrested for participating in protests at the state capitol over the last month. The head of the NAACP’s North Carolina branch said the Monday protests will be expanded to include Wednesday events that are aimed at bringing attention to the budget cuts and other policies.

“Although 300 people have been arrested, we have had thousands of people who have come to our protests,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of the state NAACP, in an interview with BET.com.

“We are attracting a cross section of the people of this state,” Barber said. “There are not just Black people, but white people, too. They are young and old, from a wide range of the people of North Carolina. So, we feel our message is truly resonating.”

By getting arrested at the state’s General Assembly, the protesters are seeking to call attention to a number of policies put in place by Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of the state. They say they are angered by the cut in the payroll tax credit for more than 900,000 poor and working people in North Carolina as well as a rejection of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage for more than 500,000 residents who don’t have health insurance.

Barber said that other groups, including the Advancement Project and clergy from around the state, will be conducting a voter registration drive this summer.

“The ballot box is supposed to be the one place where every citizen – rich or poor, young or old, and of every race – has an equal voice,” said Penda D. Hair, the co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group based in Washington.

“But make no mistake about it,” Hair said. “Everything from banning same-day registration and Sunday voting, which African-American voters are far more likely to use, to pushing for the most restrictive felony disenfranchisement law in the country has been carefully crafted to restrict full participation in North Carolina.”

The weekly protests have been dubbed “Moral Mondays.” Organizers say they will begin next week to conduct “Witness Wednesdays” events to raise awareness of the Republican-led legislature’s policies. The Wednesday events are also designed to commemorate the lives of people who contributed to – and some who died in – the fight for civil rights.

“On this coming Wednesday, we will honor the life and death of Medgar Evers,” Barber said, referring to the former NAACP field secretary who was shot in Mississippi 50 years ago.

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(Photo: WTVD-Raleigh)

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