North Carolina March Aims to Recharge Civil Rights Movement

Organizers will use the event to plan a national political agenda for 2014.

Posted: 01/08/2014 12:18 PM EST

Civil rights leaders in North Carolina are planning a Moral March on Raleigh for February and it will be "massive," they say. Hosted by the North Carolina NAACP, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street, with the participation of an assembly of labor and other groups, will be the eighth such event, but may resonate more this year as a result of last year's Moral Monday protests.

"What is different is this year's [march] takes place in the wake of extremely regressive actions and the diligent efforts of thousands of people of good will in 2013 who drove across the state of North Carolina to Raleigh every week to make a moral witness against the [general assembly's] cruel, immoral, unconstitutional policies," North Carolina NAACP president Rev. William Barber told reporters in a Wednesday conference call.

He added that lawmakers used their legislative votes last year to "abuse power," but in 2014 North Carolinians will "vote with our voices, our protests, our legal challenges and with our ballots to show the power of the people."

At the event, which will take place on Feb. 8 and kick off at the HBCU Shaw University, participating organizations will lay out a five-point plan, Barber explained. Throughout the year they will aim to motivate every citizen to be involved; meet every challenge to suppress the right to vote; and mobilize strategically to educate everyone on the issues and get them to the polls in November. They also will initiate court battles against efforts to undermine the vote and push congressional lawmakers to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act and try to "move every obstacle" that prevents citizens from voting and being heard.

According to Barber, they hope to attract the largest and most diverse gathering of protesters since the 1965 march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery.

"We're saying to people of conscience that if you believe that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, show up. If you understand that what happens in North Carolina has implications for the future of the nation, show up," Barber said. "If you believe we can build a moral movement together to save the soul of our state and country, join us regardless of party, creed, sex, race and income."

NAACP national board member Carolyn Quilloin Coleman likened North Carolina to the Mississippi or Alabama of the past when state lawmakers did not respect everyone's right to vote.

She urged churches, educators, students and others to replicate the activism exhibited in the 1960s.

"As North Carolina goes, so goes the nation. This is not simply a local movement. It's one that's catching hold across the country and we expect to see things improve over the next year as we begin prepare for the November elections," Coleman said.

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(Photo: Al Drago/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/LANDOV)

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