Over one month into their multi-state trek, civil rights leaders and activists on Thursday are descending on the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh to call attention to what they say is a flagrant "crime against democracy," the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act.
Following in the footsteps of civil rights leaders and activists a generation ago, the NAACP on August 1 launched its 860-mile Journey for Justice, from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. with the message that, "Our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter."
As the march continues through North Carolina, participants are decrying what they say is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise minority voters.
On Thursday at 4:00PM, protesters and community members will join the marchers at Shaw University before walking to Bicentennial Mall outside the state legislative building from where they will call on the U.S. Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and demand the state legislators "protect rather than suppress the vote of the people they vowed to represent."
"It has been 2 years, 26 months, and 790 days since the [Shelby County v. Holder] decision to dismantle the VRA by five members of the U.S. Supreme Court," declared NC NAACP State Conference president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber in a statement ahead of Thursday's rally. "Since then, government legislatures, especially in the south have engaged in all out assault against voting rights because Congress has not acted to fix the Voting Rights Act. As a result, North Carolina has seen the worst attack on voting rights since the days of the first Jim Crow in the 1800s."
"This non-action is a crime against democracy," Barber added.
On Tuesday, 17 NAACP chapters delivered letters to congressional offices throughout the state, calling on legislators to support the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in June. If enacted, the law would restore the vital protections lost in the Shelby decision.
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"Fifty years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, it shouldn’t be necessary to rally Americans on behalf of our right to vote, but it is," wrote Larry Cohen, chairman of the Democracy Initiative, and Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard in a recent op-ed, calling on others to support the Journey for Justice.
Similarly, in a column published on Common Dreams earlier this week, Greenpeace's Rachel Rye Butler also highlighted the ways in which social and environmental justice are interconnected.
"The same corporate interests that are dumping toxic coal ash in drinking water and polluting the air are also denying health care access, education and voting rights to citizens across the country," she wrote.
The NAACP's march is set to conclude in Washington D.C. on September 16 with a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill. Each state along the march route has been the site of a different issue focus: economic inequality in Alabama, education in Georgia, criminal justice reform in South Carolina, and youth engagement in Virginia. In Washington, D.C., they will rally behind the full advocacy agenda.