Protesters Flood North Carolina Streets as Discrimination Law Backlash Grows

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Protesters Flood North Carolina Streets as Discrimination Law Backlash Grows

North Carolina's own Attorney General refuses to defend "hate bill" in court, other state governments ban official travel to NC in widespread rebuke of anti-LGBTQ law

"We need to fight it in the streets, fight it in the courts, and take this fight right back to where they made decisions about people's lives in ten hours that will affect us for years to come," an activist rallied the crowd protesting HB 2 in Chapel Hill on Tuesday. (Photo: The News & Observer/Screenshot)

"If we don't get no justice, then they don't get no peace!" was the rallying cry echoing in the streets of downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for hours on Tuesday.

Hundreds of anti-discrimination activists flooded the streets and stopped traffic through the afternoon and evening in a planned protest against the state's sweeping, unprecedented anti-LGBTQ legislation signed into law last week.

"I came out here today because I'm thinking about what kind of world my daughter's going to grow up in," said a protester named Siri Phoenix in an interview with RT. "I want a place where people are respected, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. And I think this bill hurts people's ability to live their lives freely and safely."

The protesters may have been surprised to learn of an unlikely ally: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper characterized the law, HB 2, as a "national embarrassment" on Tuesday and stated that he will refuse to defend it from the lawsuit filed against the state on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other rights groups, CBS reported.

"This new law [is] a national embarrassment."
—Roy Cooper, North Carolina A.G.

Governors in New York, Utah, Vermont, and Washington also issued statements on Tuesday banning nonessential government travel to North Carolina. "In New York, we believe that all people—regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation—deserve the same rights and protections under the eyes of the law," New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin characterized the law as "an absolute disgrace," ABC reported.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters on Tuesday, "I do think these things—they're mostly symbolic—but symbolism is important when it comes to ending discrimination in our country."

Mayors of Seattle, San Francisco, and New York also issued injunctions against official travel to North Carolina in response to the anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Cooper told CBS, "Not only is this new law a national embarrassment, it will set North Carolina's economy back if we don't repeal it. We know that businesses here and all over the country have taken a strong stance in opposition to this law."

Indeed, on Tuesday, 80 CEOs from large corporations signed a letter (pdf) written by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality North Carolina, asking the state's politicians to repeal the discriminatory law and warning that HB 2 will be "bad for business." And last week, the National Basketball Association (NBA) issued a statement declaring its uncertainty over whether the sports conglomerate would be able to hold 2017's All-Star game in Charlotte, as is currently planned, in the wake of the bill's passage.

Protesters on Tuesday evening in Chapel Hill didn't speak about lost profits but appealed instead to legislators to think about the effect HB 2 would have on people's lives: "This legislation has real impact on the ability of trans people of color to survive," one activist said. Speakers vowed to fight for as long as it took for the law to be repealed.

"We've got to fight, people," one protester rallied the crowd. "We need to fight it in the streets, fight it in the courts, and take this fight right back to where they made decisions about people's lives in ten hours that will affect us for years to come."

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