Thousands of people opposing Republican policies in North Carolina marched in Raleigh on Saturday, saying they won't be silenced in 2014 and vowing to challenge what they call an extreme agenda within the legislature, in the court and at the ballot box.
It’s unclear exactly how many people turned out for the “Moral March on Raleigh,” but the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter said between 80,000 and 100,000 people showed up to protest a slew of legislation passed by the GOP-led General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory. Raleigh police didn't release a crowd estimate.
This is the eighth year the NAACP-led march has taken place, but organizers say this year’s march was a particularly important display of opposition in light of the conservative legislation passed by North Carolina’s government in the last year.
“The legislature has basically been taken over by an extreme right-wing coalition that’s started to turn back the hands of progress,” said Irv Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University, and an organizer of the march. “We think the turnout alone sends a message to people in power that people are against what’s going on.”
There were no reports of arrests at this year’s march.
More than 900 people were arrested during the dozen “Moral Monday” protests that took place last year.
In previous years the march was called the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street.” Jones Street referred to the street where the Legislative Building stands and the usual terminus of the march.
This year, the march ended at the intersection of Fayetteville Street and Capitol Square, where Gov. McCrory's office sits.
McCrory and North Carolina’s General Assembly have pursued a starkly conservative agenda in the past year, including a cut to the earned income tax credit, a rejection of Medicaid expansion, a reduction in unemployment benefits, an elections-overhaul law that requires photo identification to vote in person and the elimination of taxpayer-funded grants for low-income children to attend private K-12 schools.
Advocates for gay rights also were expected to participate Saturday.
Equality under the law for all is one of five demands sought by Moral March leaders in 2014, as well as voting rights, health care access, better funding for public education, as well as pro-labor and anti-poverty policies.
“Just about every area that impacts people, this legislature has come in and erased the many gains that have been made over many years,” Irv Joyner said. “We want to elevate the discussion of the issues and the wrongness of what the General Assembly is doing.”
Al Jazeera and wire services