Thousands of people marched and rallied in the frigid streets of Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday morning to demand a restoration of voting rights and voice broad support for a new progressive agenda to counter the current policies of Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Organized by the Move Forward Together Movement and the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP, led by Rev. William Barber III, the demonstration attracted a diverse coalition of individuals and organizations who say the systematic attack on state services—including healthcare and education—along with eroded democratic control and new voting restrictions, have disempowered and further marginalized the state's most vulnerable populations.
"The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy," Rev. Barber told the crowd.
Barber invoked the memory civil rights activists who fought and died so that black citizens of North Carolina and across the South could defeat Jim Crow laws which intentionally kept them from from the ballot box.
David Goodman, whose brother Andrew Goodman was murdered in 1964 by the Klu Klux Klan while campaigning for voting rights in the state, also addressed the crowd and said the rally is meant to remind "all Americans of the blood and the sacrifice" that went into securing the right to vote, but that the fight continues.
In op-ed that appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer on Saturday, Goodman explained why he traveled from New York to attend the rally and why the contemporary assault on voter participation is as sinister now as it was fifty years ago:
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Today’s disenfranchisement efforts are cleverly disguised. These efforts are not overtly violent, but couched in reasonableness and law, making them seem harmless – until one recognizes the fear of voter fraud is wholly unfounded. Requirements that are onerous to some can seem reasonable to those who have both the time and the resources necessary to overcome difficulties in registering. For many, including myself, owning a home and having a steady income guarantee that voting is easy and transparent. But, what about those who “have not,” either because they are poor, young, elderly or previously incarcerated?
Voter fraud is coded language, and this coded language is used to justify laws and regulations that disproportionally impact certain communities. That is why I am joining Barber and the Moral Monday movement during their march in Raleigh today. It is my hope that we will bring the attention of all Americans to the importance of protecting the right to vote.
Voting, a fundamental right, should be made easier – not harder. Our representative democracy requires input from all citizens. When barriers hinder a population’s ability to express its views, the complex system of checks and balances that the framers of our nation put in place to safeguard democracy will fail in their duty. If our voting laws favor the politically privileged, our nation’s policies will continue to reflect their interests only. It is incumbent on those who would benefit from this situation to remember that, once democracy is compromised, our precious freedoms can easily become collateral damage.
“We the people” should be mindful of the rights of our fellow citizens, lest our own rights become a casualty of our unenlightened self-interest.
Watch live stream of the rally: