LAURINBURG — The Rev. Terence Williams, president of Scotland County’s NAACP chapter, has attended every Moral Monday protest except for one — and so far, only a handful of the Scotland County organization’s members have followed him to Raleigh for the demonstrations that have made national news.
But Williams hopes a visit from the organization’s leader, the Rev. William Barber, next month will inspire locals to at least attend a Scotland County version, planned for the same day as a walk that will honor the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s a combination Williams finds fitting.
“Definitely the Moral Mondays have become a grassroots movement to fight against some of the social injustices that have now been promoted and are hurting our people,” he said. “It reminds us of the 1960s when Dr. King had taken that approach to non-violence. Basically, being able to have individual citizens be able to participate in civil disobedience is a way to … shed light on the political process.”
The protests began in April and continued weekly as the Republican majorities that control North Carolina’s House and Senate passed a number of laws that the NAACP and its partner organizations opposed. They included rejecting Medicaid expansion for up to an estimated 500,000 low-income workers under the federal health care overhaul, a significant overhaul to the state’s tax system, and rewriting the state’s voting laws that place new restrictions on casting ballots.
For Williams, being a part of the protests has been a “powerful” experience.
“They are electrifying because you find out people just want to be heard. They want to know that individuals are going to represent their cause and their issues. The mood is electrifying, people are vigilant, everybody just wants to know what they can do to make sure their voices are heard.”
The protests will continue next year, starting with a planned march in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 8 and continuing when the North Carolina General Assembly goes back into session on May 14, Barber has said — and activists in other states will be watching. At a meeting earlier this month, representatives across a few dozen states met with Barber to learn how to hold similar events in their capitals.
Alabama groups were already holding Truth and Justice Tuesdays based on Moral Mondays. Georgia also plans to demonstrate against laws there.
Williams sees it going even farther, perhaps evolving into a global movement.
“Coalitions of different civil organizations and people from all walks of life have collaborated together and stood together against issues of our time,” he said. “When one citizen is hurt we all are hurt and it has nothing to do with race, it has nothing to do with our religious background, it doesn’t have anything to do with discrimination — but it has everything to do with regressive policies that are setting back our state.”
His job, Williams said, has been to take back to Scotland County as much information as possible so that people know how those up for election or holding office stand. Gone should be the days of voting for “popularity,” for friends or neighbors — what North Carolina needs now, Williams said, is someone savvy enough to navigate political waters in Raleigh.
“Folks are going to do what they are elected to do and we need to make sure they are being held accountable, ensure that the public are well-informed,” he said.