Between 80,000 and 100,000 people gathered outside the North Carolina State Capitol Saturday morning for the “Moral March,” a rally to speak out against an array of social and economical issues affecting the citizens of the state.
The crowd rallied against the current state of the public school system, the unemployment rate, the new voter ID registration law, the denial to Medicaid expansion in the state, and the cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit.
“People in North Carolina are fed up,” Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, Vice President of the NCAAP North Carolina chapter and one of the leaders of the march, told Vice News. “The number of people in attendance speaks for itself. These aren’t just black or white issue. These issues are of unrepresented groups speaking out against an extremist state government taking away constitutional given rights.”
North Carolina’s ID registration goes beyond the basic requirement of a government issued program to include the redistricting of voting booths in certain neighborhoods, leaving poorer areas at a disadvantage.
The denial to Medicaid expansion in the state will affect nearly 500,000 people in N.C. by the end of the year. And the cut to the Earned Income Tax Credit will affect around 900,000 of N.C. working families, while benefitting the state’s wealthiest citizens.
The “Moral March Movement” began in 2007 when Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of NAACP, and other North Carolina NCAAP chapter leaders aligned with a collation of over 70 various groups ranging from local churches to labor unions to march in the streets of Raleigh to advocate for social and economical change.
This year was the largest attendance since the movement began -- in 2013, only 15,000 turned out for the same march. The leap in turnout is a good indicator of the growing support for the movement's agenda in the months before the 2014 midterms, and a show of how much more popular the movement has become.
Since 2007 the movement has grown to include over 200 coalition groups, including teacher organizations and LGBT and Women rights groups.
“Many of these groups have been directly impacted by new laws passed by the heavily controlled Republican state government,” said Gatewood. “Their voices are being silenced. And we strongly opposed that.”
North Carolina, once a bastion of progressive policy-making from both parties, has become a petri dish for tea party political experimentation, according to Barber.
The march on Saturday is part of a bigger movement called Moral Mondays, which was started on April 29, 2013 when Barber and Gatewood, alongside 15 other NCAAP members, stood at the North Carolina General Assembly and peacefully protested against bills being passed by the assembly. The group sang songs and urged assembly members to reconsider policies that would hurt and disfranchise the most vulnerable members of the state.