Tens of thousands gathered in the North Carolina capital of Raleigh on Saturday for what organizers are calling one of the largest civil rights rallies in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. The Mass Moral March is held annually to fight moves by Republican lawmakers to attack voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare and women’s rights. North Carolina Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state Legislature. Today, the first official Moral Monday protest of the year will include a “people’s court” to indict them for pursuing policies that have hurt the people of the state. In an emotional address, two brothers who have lost siblings spoke side by side: Farris Barakat, brother of Deah Barakat, one of three Muslim students killed in Chapel Hill last week in what family members call a hate crime; and Pierre Lacy, brother of Lennon Lacy, an African-American teenager who was found hung to death under suspicious circumstances last year in Bladenboro, North Carolina. It was the ninth Mass Moral March led by our guest, state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to North Carolina, where thousands gathered Saturday in the capital of Raleigh for what organizers are calling, quote, “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.” This is the ninth Mass Moral March led by state NAACP President Reverend Dr. William Barber.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: When extremist politicians underfund public education and create anorexic, high-poverty, resegregated school, and then create anorexic teacher salaries, and then produce anorexic student performance and educational development, we have a heart problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Among the national leaders who joined Saturday’s march were American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. In an emotional address, two brothers whose siblings were killed also spoke side by side—Farris Barakat, the brother of Deah Barakat, one of three Muslim students killed in Chapel Hill last week in what family members call a hate crime, and Pierre Lacy, brother of Lennon Lacy, an African-American teenager who was found hung to death under suspicious circumstances last year in Bladenboro, North Carolina.
PIERRE LACY: Words can’t really describe the pain that the families have to go through, including myself. It’s a scar that just runs so deep. You know, every night it’s an ongoing feeling of just loss and pain and hurt and just misery. And only God can bring you out of that type of misery. And I hope that God is continuing to put his hands on each and every one of y’all lives, so that we can understand and see that killings like this does not—it does not belong in America. This is not what America stands for. We don’t stand for killing ourselves and killing our children. Our children have a future, and we’re supposed to stand up and fight for their future, for them to have.
FARRIS BARAKAT: Assalamu alaikum rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, which means “May peace and blessings be upon all of you.” A few days ago, my brother, his wife and my sister-in-law’s sister were tragically murdered in my brother’s apartment in Chapel Hill. But I can tell you nothing but good has come out of it. As I was walking here, they said freedom is not free. My brother paid with his life. My sister-in-law paid with her life. Razan paid with her life. They paid for their lives because they stood up for something that was demonized in the media and that’s something that maybe we haven’t collectively stood up yet to say, that Muslims are Americans, too.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on this year’s Mass Moral March to fight moves by Republican lawmakers to attack voting rights, education, the environment, healthcare, women’s rights, we go back to North Carolina, to Raleigh, where we’re joined by the Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the state’s chapter of the NAACP. He joins us as lawmakers there are just back in session, and Republicans control both the governorship and both houses of the Legislature. Today, the first official Moral Monday protest of the year will include a “people’s court” to indict them for pursuing policies that have hurt the people of the state. This kicks off a week of—Moral Week of Action.
Reverend Barber, welcome back to Democracy Now! How many people do you believe came out this weekend? Very poignant, very powerful, people marching against hate.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, we saw—we know there were tens of thousands. We know that last year’s march and this year’s march—last year, some estimates were upwards of 80,000, after we had had almost a whole year of civil disobedience and constant touring across the state. We had tens of thousand yesterday. Some have said 40. I don’t know exactly what the numbers were. But what we do know is that these two years represent two things: number one, a coalition that has stayed together for more than nine years, which is kind of almost unheard of in civil rights; number two, two massive marches that are bigger than—have represented the biggest marches since Selma in the South, particularly around civil rights, labor rights and justice issues.
And I would add one third thing to that: the diversity in the march and the diversity of young people and old people. We like to say we’re black, we’re brown, we’re white, we’re young, we’re old, we’re gay, we’re straight, we’re teachers, we’re students, we’re doctors, we’re the uninsured, we’re the underemployed, we’re labor rights, we’re businesspeople, we’re Republicans, we’re Democrats, we’re independents, we are North Carolina. And what we have seen is a state movement actually have national implications. And we believe that is the key for movements today—deeply based, state-based, state government movements, that are deeply moral, deeply constitutional, anti-poverty, anti-racist, pro-justice, transformative, fusion movements that build from the bottom up, like Selma was from the bottom up, Birmingham was from the bottom up. This movement is from the bottom up, and it’s having impact not only here in North Carolina, but around the country.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you talk about that, Reverend Barber, what some of the impacts of this march, and indeed these marches, have been, and what you’d like to see more of?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, actually, I’d like—thank you, Amy—that this, the march—or, really, it’s a combination march and people’s assembly we’ve been doing for—now for seven years, and it’s grown expansively. But it’s one component. You know, we have a litigation strategy. We have the first case, after Shelby, going to trial July 6, 30 days to the exact date of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, that’s critical. We have had more than 200 Moral Monday-type events around the state, going into local communities, even in what was so-called, quote-unquote “Republican” counties. We tend to not call them Republicans, because we believe these persons are not true Republicans: They are tea party, Koch brother, Art Pope extremists; they’re not Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower Republicans.
We have seen the poll numbers shift. For instance, when we started in April 29th with civil disobedience, the governor was at 50 percent in the polls, now he’s 34 percent in the polls. The Legislature is under 19 percent in the polls. Most of the issues—unemployment, earned income tax credit, raising taxes to support teacher pay, and a number of other issues, support for public education—are now polling all over 50 percent. When we started, they were under 40 percent—Medicaid expansion. We’ve actually seen the governor now start talking about Medicaid expansion, when before he wasn’t talking about it. We’re seeing them now trying to figure out how to fix teacher pay, because there’s been such a moral and constitutional conscious awakening around those issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Barber, we only have 30 seconds, but I’d hate to end this without referring to Pierre Lacy being there at the march with Deah Barakat’s brother. You have called for an independent investigation into the Lennon Lacy—what you call a lynching. Can you very briefly describe it for us, what you believe happened?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Yes, we—yes, we have called for—this young man was found on almost the exact date that Emmett Till was killed. He was found hanging, had the wrong shoes. Our own independent pathologist said there was no way he could have done this to himself. We’ve called for an independent investigation. And nationally, the NAACP has also said the federal government ought to step in around the case of these three young Muslim students that were killed. These hate crimes are serious, and we need to make sure that they are investigated and that justice occurs and that we say that this kind of hate and violence has no place in our American society.
AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. William Barber, we thank you for being with us, president of the North Carolina NAACP, author of the book Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation.