Moral Mondays: “We are building a movement, not just a moment”

Eight people on Wednesday, June 12  were arrested at the state capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina as they engaged in civil disobedience to protest the regressive legislative agenda of the state’s leaders.

Wednesday’s action was called Witness Wednesday, an extension of the Moral Monday demonstrations that have been taking place at the North Carolina statehouse every Monday since April. Moral Mondays are aimed at exposing and protesting proposed legislation that according to William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, is part of the extreme right’s regressive agenda aimed at “(lining) the pockets of the super-rich” at the expense of the rest of us.

The Moral Monday demonstration on June 10 drew thousands of supporters; 84 were arrested as they protested a decision to not seek federal funds that would allow the state to expand its Medicaid program to 500,000 low-income working and disabled people who cannot afford health insurance.

So far, about 350 people have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience since Moral Mondays began.

The Moral Monday actions have been organized by Historic Thousands on Jones Street (where the state capitol is located), or HK on J, a progressive coalition organized by the North Carolina NAACP that includes 140 partner organizations fighting for a 14-point People’s Agenda.

“We are building a movement, not just a moment,” writes North Carolina NAACP President William Barber as he described the purpose of the Moral Monday demonstrations for Guardian readers. “As our coalition and supporters grow, we will continue to shine a spotlight on injustice and go back home to our respective communities and organize against the regressive agenda of North Carolina’s legislative leadership.”

The Witness Wednesday demonstration fell on the 50th anniversary of the murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and honored his sacrifice and those of others who died fighting for civil, labor, and human rights.

Among other things, Moral Monday demonstrators have protested against cutting the payroll tax credit for 900,000 poor and working families, slashing unemployment benefits, expanding private school vouchers, repealing the Racial Justice Act, tightening eligibility for the state’s pre-kindergarten program, and the expansion of fracking.

“The North Carolina general assembly is making it harder for those who are sick to get healthcare; for children to get an education; for the incarcerated to be redeemed; for people to vote,” writes Barber.  “At the same time, they make it easier for the rich to get richer; for the sick to get sicker; for private schools to profit while cutting funds for public schools; to implement the flawed death penalty; and to get guns.”

Each week the demonstrations have grown in size. About 300 attended the first Moral Monday in April. On June 3 an estimated 4,000 people participated, and that number was matched at the June 10 Moral Monday.

“The appeal for each Moral Monday has been the same: urging legislators to govern for the good of the whole, rather than for the wealthy,” writes Barber.

The good of the whole, according to Barber, includes not only stopping reactionary legislation, but advancing the HK on J’s 14-point People’s Agenda, a wide-ranging progressive agenda that seeks racial justice, political equality, worker rights, environmental justice, and a more just and equitable society where money doesn’t buy special privileges.

After Monday’s demonstration, Barber said that HK on J would add another layer of resistance by mobilizing supporters to register voters and increase voter turnout in the 2014 elections. “We intend to have a turnout in 2014 like no other midyear election this state has ever seen,” said Barber.

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