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Black Ministers v. GOP: 17 Arrests as NAACP Protests Extreme Right-wing Agenda in North Carolina

Calling for justice, religious leaders and activists put their bodies on the line.
 
 
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A festival of GOP gerrymandering, coupled with the uninspiring performance of Democrats in recent years, has left my home state of North Carolina in the hands of retrograde Republicans who are urged on in their mission of misery by discount store mogul Art Pope, now considered the de facto governor.  They’re making the most of this opportunity to turn the Tarheel state a into Mid-Atlantic Mississippi.

Anger is rising.  Yesterday, an NC-NAACP group, eight of whom are ministers, held a vigil to protest the GOP-backed legislative program of decimating unemployment benefits, gutting public education, shoveling money towards the rich in the form of tax giveaways, refusing federal Medicaid expansion, and a bill requiring voters to present photo ID, an old tactic for suppressing the black vote.

According to Raleigh’s WRAL, the ministers, along with other activists, surrendered to North Carolina General Assembly police officers outside the Senate chambers “after an hour of prayer and song directed at what protestors called a regressive Republican agenda.”  They may be charged with breaking building rules, second-degree trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. 

The song choices of the protesters included the civil rights standard, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round,” a message which underscores the regressive nature of Republican policy-makers who wish to turn back the clock. In a statement, Rev. William Barber, president of the NC-NAACP, said “the decision to engage in civil disobedience is not one we take lightly.” He noted, however, that “extremists are acting like the George Wallaces of the 21st century. They are pursuing a cruel, unusual and unconstitutional agenda reminiscent of the Old South. What happens in North Carolina does not stay in North Carolina. It has national implications. North Carolina is ground zero in a national struggle to defend democracy for all.”

In an open letter to Governor McCrory and state legislators, NC-NAACP members call for an end to hurtful policies which are “similar to those by repressive regimes in other countries, who see their own citizens as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.” The letter ends with a quotation from Micah 6:8:  What does God require of us but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”

The GOP has apparently forgotten that a populist religious streak in the state has pushed back against monied elites ever since 1770, when Protestants of various “New Light” sects rebelled against the royal government’s unfair taxation in the War of Regulation – what many consider a dress rehearsal for the American Revolution.

Evangelicals in the South have ancient roots in movements for justice and economic  fairness that surprise many who associate them with conservative politics.

 

 

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.