By Sandy Semans Ross on August 14, 2013Coastal Moral Monday Aug. 19 at Roanoke Island Festival Park was the 15th in a series of rallies opposing a long list of actions by the North Carolina General Assembly this year.
Protesters have been expressing concern and sometimes outrage at changes in election laws, education, women’s health care, fracking, the environment and more.
The NAACP – the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – is organizing the events, but sponsoring partners include the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina, Planned Parenthood, North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina Council of Churches.
On July 22, Jo Nicholas, League of Women Voters of North Carolina president, was a featured speaker at the Moral Monday rally that focused on voting rights.
The league’s website includes a pledge to continue to fight to stop elections law changes that opponents say are repressive and an attempt to discourage participation in the voting process.
“The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, along with our coalition partners will do everything in our power to protect our democracy and ensure that all citizens have access to free and fair elections,” the pledge says.
“We call on the U.S. Department of Justice to use all means at their disposal to see that this legislation gets swept into the dustbin of history where it belongs.”
The first 12 rallies during the General Assembly session that ended two weeks ago included entering the Legislative Building in Raleigh to voice concerns.
General Assembly Police arrested more than 900 people. Among them were several Dare County residents, including Deborah Johnson, Judy Lotas, Patty Callum, Lovey Selby, Beth Storie and Linda Willey. Although the local arrestees were women, many men also were zip-tied and carted off to jail.
The diversity of the partners and their organizations’ missions are reflected in the makeup of rally attendees.
Judy Lotas, a Duck resident, is part of a growing Outer Banks community of telecommuters. She splits her schedule between working from home in Dare County and her New York City-based advertising agency, Lotas Patton New York Ltd, where she is a partner.
“I saw the news about what was happening here at home while reading the newspapers in New York. I decided that I needed to do what I could to help stop the voter suppression; and the hideous changes to women’s health made me furious. And then there was the tax reform which screwed the poor and rewarded the rich,” Lotas said
“I feel guilty about not taking action during the early Civil Rights movement in the South; this time I was not going to be silent.”
Tax reform legislation that drew her ire will result in less money to fund the state’s budget, which might translate into more cuts for state agencies and programs that have been subject to the fiscal knife in the past two years. Sponsoring legislators asserted that cutting the taxes will lure more business to the state, which will make up for the lost revenues. But while some will see their tax bills reduced because of loopholes left in place, others may pay more.
According to the North Carolina Justice Center, a family with an income of $24,000 will see about a $500 increase while those earning $1 million will get a $41,000 break.
Lotas was arrested on July 8 in the Legislative Building after refusing to leave.
“I like the Moral Monday format of being nondenominational and nonpartisan. And I agree with the Rev. Barber who says we have to strive for change without anger and to stay on message,” said Lotas. The Rev. Dr. William Barber is the president of NAACP North Carolina.
Lovey Selby of Manteo attended a few Moral Monday rallies before she joined the list of arrestees.Selby, an employee at Basnight’s Lone Cedar, said she decided to participate because she wants to ensure that “the poor are fed, that children are educated and well nourished, and that everyone has the opportunity to have access to health care.”
It’s not about politics, but a personal mission for Selby.
“My mother and aunt are depending on me to do the morally right thing. It breaks their hearts to think that we are moving backwards and not forwards. Their heart breaks; my heart breaks. My dad and Uncle Calvin – may they rest in peace – would be so proud of me for doing the right thing. These are people that I adored growing up. I’ve heard the stories from the 40′s 50′s and 60’s so I get it. I have nieces and nephews who are depending on me. I want equality for all,” said Selby.
Recently passed legislation again cut public education funding, denied 500,000 low income adults access to health care by refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and cut millions from the budget that would have provided programs for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and addictive disorders.
Linda Willey, who with her husband Fletcher owns the Willey Agency, said her interest in joining the movement wasn’t about just one or two issues.
“I have concerns about all of them,” she said. “The week I was arrested, labor and the economy were the focus. It could have easily been any of the many issues that are going to have long-lasting negative effects.”
In an interview with Jeanne Bonds on the radio show, “Plain Talk Politics,” Willey said that she felt morally obligated to join the movement because of her deep concerns about what is going on in the state.
“I’m an Episcopalian and in church on Sunday, we pray for the least among us and pray for the just and proper use of God’s creation. Fracking in not the just and proper use of God’s creation. They don’t want to tell us the chemicals that are going to use,” she said.
“And we are not feeding the hungry. We’re not doing the things that in my heart I feel are important and the way I want to live my life and the way I want North Carolina to be.”
Willey said that she attended Moral Monday on June 24 because she was looking for a way to go and be with people who are like-minded.
Arrested on that day, she returned to Raleigh every Monday after that to participate.
“We didn’t go to be arrested. We went to petition the General Assembly to please listen to us. There were issues that we cared about and wanted to talk about. We wanted to be heard but, in that process, we were arrested and we were not heard – we were told to leave the building,” Willey told Bonds.
The 13th Moral Monday rally was held in Raleigh, but now with the General Assembly out of session, organizers are taking their case to each of the state’s 13 Congressional Districts. The first – Mountain Moral Monday – was held in Asheville and drew thousands of supporters. Simultaneously with the Manteo rally, a similar event will be held in Charlotte.
The Festival Park amphitheater area will open at 4 p.m. and the rally will begin at 6 p.m. A fish fry will provide dinner for $10. No coolers allowed, but lawn chairs or blankets are recommended.