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NAACP vows to continue protests after arrests

RALEIGH (AP) — The leader of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP said Thursday his group will continue its series of weekly protests at the state legislature.

What the Rev. William Barber is now calling “Moral Mondays” will extend into the foreseeable future following back-to-back weeks of protests resulting in nearly 50 arrests.

“I don’t want to say how long because the fact is we don’t know how long they’re going to (continue the session), but people are asking us to continue as long as necessary because it shines a light,” Barber said. “The point is every Monday they open the session, and every week they announce new forms of extremism, so every Monday we will continue to rise up.”

Thirty people were arrested last Monday, a week after 17 protesters were taken into custody.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other activists say the Republican supermajorities in the legislature are backing a regressive agenda by refusing a Medicaid expansion under federal healthcare reform, cutting unemployment benefits, restricting voting rights, narrowing eligibility for the state’s pre-K program and pushing tax reform that depends on higher sales taxes.

“These are my concerns not only for my grandchildren but for everybody’s grandchildren, and why I chose to risk getting arrested last Monday,” said Vicki Ryder, a member of the social justice group Raging Grannies.

Some NAACP members that have participated in the demonstrations have compared the Republican General Assembly and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to the segregationist Gov. George Wallace and former President Richard Nixon, who adopted a so-called Southern strategy of winning political support by appealing to racist sentiment.

“That new party is alive and well in the Raleigh statehouse, and their serpent-like political agility is picking off every vulnerable person it can,” said Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, pastor at the Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church in Hickory and the third vice president of the NC NAACP.

House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, R-Wake, said the protests haven’t drawn the attention of House Republican leadership and won’t lead to a change of direction.

“I don’t feel their content is justified,” he said. “It is so vitriolic that it’s discounted by most people.”

Barber said the NAACP is also reviewing legislation to mount a legal challenge and preparing a 25-county campaign of public gatherings to oppose Republican policies.

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