Despite Rain, Thousands Rally At Annual Social Justice March

Feb 12, 2018

Thousands rallied Saturday at an annual social justice march that began 11 years ago in North Carolina and focused this year on protecting voting rights and ending gerrymandering.

Arlene Thomas of Burlington told The News & Observer of Raleigh that she attended the "Moral March on Raleigh" on Saturday despite the rain because the 2016 election turned the formerly apolitical 68-year-old into an activist.

"You just can't sit at home and complain," said Thomas, who also marched in 2017. "Everybody deserves the right to vote, not just the ones they want to vote. Gerrymandering should be illegal - for any party."

The state chapter of the NAACP began the march in 2007 under the leadership of the Rev. William Barber, who has moved on to lead the Poor People's Campaign, an updated version of the movement that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. started not long before he was assassinated in 1964.

The new president of the state chapter, the Rev. Anthony Spearman, led this year's march.

At an early rally in front of the N.C. Memorial Auditorium, Spearman said the turnout in the rain showed a "proven commitment to the movement and to the third reconstruction."

Spearman praised the numbers of young people involved in this year's march, saying youth represent our "hopes and dreams for today."

Among those who marched were people upset about the Trump administration's cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Under the program, young immigrants in this country illegally got a temporary reprieve from deportation while being able to get work permits, driver's licenses and other documents.

Jeymi Dubon of Durham, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. with her parents from Honduras, is a high school senior who has been accepted into college. But because of her immigration status, Dubon would have to pay out-of-state tuition in North Carolina, which she can't afford.

"America and North Carolina are all I have known," Dubon told the crowd. "We are not so much different from each other. We have a dream, but I can't accomplish mine without your help."

Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the state GOP, said on Facebook that it was disappointing that the rally speakers didn't "celebrate the best North Carolina economy in two decades."