ASHEVILLE With the North Carolina General Assembly finished for the year, protesters brought their Moral Monday demonstration to Asheville.
The Ashville Citizen-Times reported that police estimated more than 5,000 people had gathered in Pack Square Park for the Mountain Moral Monday rally by 6 p.m. Later estimates doubled that amount.
The rally at the Buncombe County Courthouse was the first away from Raleigh.
The NAACP and other groups hosting the protests promise to go to all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts for the protests of what they said is the Republican-majority legislature and governor’s rollback of progress in education, social and economic equality, and voting rights.
“You can’t do wrong in Raleigh and then hide back home,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.
Several dozen of the more than 930 people – including at least 68 from Western North Carolina – arrested during the 13 weeks of protests in Raleigh were brought on the stage in Asheville as the crowd chanted “Thank you.”
“This group of jailbirds and I believe in the Golden Rule: that we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. And politicians should live by the Golden rule, too,” said Heather Rayburn, who was arrested at the July 15 protest.
Barber talked about how brave North Carolinians fought back when the state instituted segregation and laws designed to keep blacks from voting after the Civil War and also supported the civil rights movement. He said those people from history are calling for the protesters not to give up the rights and progress they fought for.
“This legacy is calling us once again today. We have seen a regressive and immoral legislature in 180 days turn public policy 180 degrees,” he said.
Barber said taking the protests out of Raleigh will prove there is support for what the protesters want. He told members of the crowd they must get more people registered to vote and let their elected officials know they are angry with the direction the state is moving.
“This is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match,” Barber said. “This is a movement.”
Sylva residents Sue Bartlett and Mary Slagle attended the rally. The former schoolteachers told the Citizen-Times they wanted to stand up for what’s right.
“We’re concerned about the children, concerned about health care, concerned about our environment,” Bartlett said.
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