ROCKINGHAM — Charged. Energized. Determined.
That’s how the Rev. Dian Griffin Jackson describes the atmosphere at the weekly Moral Monday protests organized by the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter.
Moral Monday protests began in 2013 in response to conservative legislation the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed, most notably the voter identification law.
“We are now regressing from the strides in our state that have made North Carolina a state to be proud to call home,” she said.
“Our elected officials, including our governor, have lost their way,” she said. “They have blinders on and the blinders are enlarged by greed, arrogance and racism.”
Jackson said the voter ID law probably wouldn’t have been as big of an issue if it had come at a different time. “It’s simply a political move,” she said.
Education and health care are also important issues that Jackson said she wants to see addressed.
She said students are denied access to good teachers because North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation for teacher pay.
Jackson said she disagrees with state lawmakers for refusing an expansion to Medicaid, calling their decision “atrocious.”
“There are still many hungry children in our state, and children who do not have access to health care, not even the basics such as dental and routine physicals,” she said. “And our state has refused to accept Medicaid for our children and elderly, and so many who cannot be treated without it.”
“The sad part is, there is no cost to our state for this assistance,” she added. “How can we in good conscience do this to our most vulnerable citizens?”
“Accept it and take care of your people,” she said.
Jackson, a pastor at Mount Zion United Church of Christ in Rockingham, said the movement is not just a fad.
“We come as a people that have something to say and we are determined to be heard,” she said. “We will be there until the changes are made or (the legislators) are removed.”
While most of the demonstrations have been held at the state legislative building in Raleigh, there have also been protests in Charlotte and Asheville.
“I think I may have missed two since they began,” Jackson said.
The Moral Monday events typically draw large crowds. More than 800 reportedly attended last Monday’s demonstration.
“I love looking at the crowds,” Jackson said, noting that there are people from all genders, ages and “every walk of life.”
It’s not just North Carolinians participating, either. Jackson said people from New York and around the country have come to show support.
Since the protests started, police have made more than 900 arrests, including nearly two dozen this week.
Jackson said she hasn’t been arrested yet, but added, “I’ve come close.”
“I’ve been in the legislative building when they’ve told us to leave,” she said. “I applaud them that have been arrested.”
Jackson said her parents marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he visited Greenville.
Like King, she said she prefers things to be done in a nonviolent way.
But some claim the peaceful protests haven’t been all that peaceful.
Dallas Woodhouse, president of the conservative group Carolina Rising, wrote an open letter to state NAACP head William Barber saying he was disappointed when a security team “claimed the entire area and forced me away.”
Woodhouse concluded the letter by saying, “…to make so much noise about your right to access ‘The People’s House’ and then to forcibly remove other citizens from ‘The People’s Lawn’ is hypocritical and unchristian. I hope when we return, you and your expansive security detail will simply treat us better.”
NAACP spokeswoman Sarah Bufkin did not return a phone call or email from the Daily Journal seeking a response to Carolina Rising’s claims.
Jackson said Moral Monday demonstrations will be expanding to other locations across the state, including Richmond County, but no dates have been set.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-997-3111, ext. 16.