The NAACP (pictured above is their student chapter) is launching a campaign in North Carolina, challenging a series of government-sponsored proposals that some say would threaten the health, education, and voting rights of thousands.
The campaign is scheduled to begin with an act of civil disobedience from the pages of the 1960’s civil rights struggles: A group of NAACP-led protesters intend to get arrested after holding a “pray-in” at the state General Assembly building.
“We don’t take this action lightly,” said Rev.William Barber II (pictured below) of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference. “We do not seek to have hand cuffs put on us. It’s not easy to see the ugly comments that will be written about us in the newspapers, but we must draw the line somewhere.”
The “pray-in” at the state capitol comes on the heels of a sudden and dramatic political shift in North Carolina, which has seen a Republican majority push a wide-ranging agenda that weakens voter rights, access to healthcare, environmental laws, and even attempted to establish a state religion.
“Right-wing extremists are acting as though they want to go down in history as the George Wallaces of the 21st century,” Barber said.
Rev. Jimmy Hawkins, a Presbyterian minister in North Carolina, said, “I am appalled by the things going on in our state. If you told me years ago this would be happening, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
A recent poll by Public Policy Polling indicates widespread voter distaste for many of the Republican-led state General Assembly and controversial policies the body is advocating.
Overall, just 20 percent of those polled approved of the job the General Assembly is doing, while 56 percent disapproved.
Meanwhile, a bill to make Christianity the state official religion is opposed by 45 percent and supported by 42 percent of those polled. Called the “Defense of Religion Act,” the bill was tabled earlier this month after it was ridiculed across the nation.
But that setback to the conservative agenda hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers from pushing other questionable proposals.
Bryan Perlmutter, a student organizer in North Carolina, said a state proposal that would cut $200 million in student aid for higher education is threatening educational goals.
“We see our futures as under attack,” he said.
A bill to allow legislators to receive gifts from lobbyists is opposed by an overwhelming 88 percent of those polled and received just 6 percent support.
Another Republican bill that would allow power companies to ignore state renewable energy standards is opposed by 39 percent of those polled while drawing just 22 percent support.
It’s a bit scary how Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are attempting to overturn standards of fairness and good-government that have stood for generations.
In fact, it seems as though they all collectively fell and bumped their heads, with Republicans having woken up to a 1920’s North Carolina where minority and poor folks had few rights that those in power had to acknowledge.
It’s good that someone is waking them up from their slumber.