“FORWARD TOGETHER. NOT ONE STEP BACK” reverberated through the streets of downtown and the doorstep of the State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 8, as the largest civil rights march in the South in decades drew a diverse crowd of tens of thousands to speak out against the disastrous impact the Tea Party has had on the state.
The annual “Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition” brought together members from the more than 125 North Carolina State Conference NAACP branches, youth councils, high school and college chapters from the four corners of the state and members and friends of over 160 other social justice organizations. The march picks up from last year’s Moral Mondays protests where more than 900 people were arrested demonstrating against the impact of Tea Party-backed policies.
Marchers at HKonJ called for planting “America on higher ground,” and laid out an ambitious agenda that included:
- Securing pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability.
- Providing well-funded, quality public education for all.
- Promoting health care for all, including affordable access, the expansion of Medicaid, women’s health and environmental justice in every community.
- Addressing the continuing disparities in the criminal justice system on the basis of race and class.
- Defending and expanding voting rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBT rights and the fundamental principle of equality under the law for all people.
The historic nature of this form of fusion politics was not lost on HKonJ convener Rev. William Barber II, who told a gathering of coalition partners after the march, “When blacks and progressive whites came together 144 years ago to begin the long journey out of the division of the civil war, the good of the whole state was their vision – a vision that was blown up by racism wielded by the wealthy whose interests were threatened. Their original populist vision is what must guide us now. That higher ground is the way forward. It is the better way.”