William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said Thursday that he would ask the national NAACP to call for a national economic boycott of North Carolina.
Barber and several protesters who were arrested last week at the General Assembly spoke at Davie Street Presbyterian Church, criticizing the legislature’s failure to repeal House Bill 2 and last week’s special sessions that sapped power from incoming Gov. Roy Cooper. The NAACP leader also vowed his group would file a lawsuit alleging the legislature’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution and announced its 11th annual Moral March on Raleigh.
Barber said the state NAACP chapter would draft a letter to the group’s national board after Christmas asking it to consider ordering an economic boycott of the state.
“We did it in South Carolina when they raised the Confederate flag,” he said. “We must do it, we believe, as this new legislature is trying to raise a new Confederacy, in policy, right here in North Carolina.”
In addition to repealing HB2 – a bill that overrides local ordinances setting rules on minimum wages and employment and orders transgender people to use the public bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate – Barber said his group will request the boycott stand until fair election districts are drawn and actions from last week’s second special session are rolled back.
The General Assembly returned to town last week for a special session on disaster relief, in which lawmakers provided money in response to flooding in the east and fires in the west. But then legislators called a second special session to pass bills changing the makeup of elections boards, reducing the number of cabinet appointments Cooper could make and appointing Yolanda Stith, wife of Gov. Pat McCrory chief of staff Thomas Stith, to a vacancy on the Industrial Commission.
“We cannot let the nation just think that it’s just about bathrooms and that it’s just about HB2,” Barber said.
Barber said boycotts can have many forms, and that this one has already begun, because businesses have chose not to locate in the state and groups and the NCAA have moved events to other states. He noted that the national NAACP already decided to overlook North Carolina for its convention because of HB2’s passage earlier this year.
“It puts another form of pressure on our leaders and our leadership to do right,” Barber said of the boycott proposal.
The NCGOP released a statement Thursday from Ada Fisher, one of the state Republican representatives to the national committee and life member of the NAACP, who criticized Barber’s vow to seek a boycott of the state. Fisher said that among the people hurt by a boycott would be the state’s more than 2 million African-American residents.
“This punishes hard working North Carolina citizens of color and can hardly be considered ‘advancement,” Fisher said. “Further, the NAACP is comprised of several thousand women and young people, as well as others, who care about their privacy and dignity in bathrooms, showers and other facilities.”
Barber also talked about the state NAACP’s annual march, which will be held this year on Feb. 11.
“The theme this year will be resisting our legislature and its continuing constitutional overreach,” Barber said.
He also said the state NAACP’s lawyers have been asked to produce a legal memo outlining every possible legal action the group could take to challenge what the legislature did last week in its special session.
The group’s lawyers believe that they could make claims regarding equal protection under the law and voting rights, he said.
“It’s not just about robbing a candidate or a governor,” Barber said. “It’s about robbing the people of their power.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802