[Marxism] North Carolina moral march

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sat Feb 22 20:33:11 MST 2014

[Note to marxmail subbers: the Solidarity "members-and-cops-only" email 
list comments that prompted this post are below my own.]

I was at the Raleigh "Moral March." Drove up from Atlanta because my son 
was in a production of a new stage adaptation of George Orwell's Animal 
Farm (Lucas was playing the Stalinist über hack Squealer) at Guilford 
College in Greensboro, which is just an hour and a half from Raleigh.

The rally was held on Fayetteville Street which extends a half mile from 
the capitol to the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center, an area perhaps 
900 yards deep by 30 wide. It was full, completely packed for the first 
200 yards or so, and after that more loosely, with a little breathing 
room but not sparse. Several times they called from the platform for 
people to pack in a little closer so that those still trying to get into 
the rally area could do so,

The old rule of thumb from the anti-Vietnam War days was that you could 
have 5-7 people in 10 square yards if they were sitting on the ground 
next to each other, 2-3 times as many if all were standing. By that 
measure this would have been 40,000-60,000 people in the rally area, as 
all were standing, plus however many were on side streets.

Organizers said it was 80,000-100,000 people. They said this was the 
largest civil rights protest in the South since the 1960s. I am aware of 
only one other protest of comparable size in the region, the Latino 
immigrant rights march in Atlanta on April 10, 2006, which police 
estimated at 75,000 people. But that was strictly a local, not 
southeast-wide event, and one that was publicized almost exclusively 
among Latinos, and was 99.9% Latino.

At any rate, the NC event was clearly WAY more than organizers 
anticipated. The rally permit request estimated 20,000 people; in 
keeping with that estimate, three jumbotrons were set up, but the 
farthest one from the stage was perhaps 200 yards into the crowd.

Politicians, newspaper scribblers and TV gasbags had been making fun of 
the organizer's claims that /dozens/ of buses and /thousands/ of people 
would be coming. Their reaction was to cover both ears with the palms of 
their hands while loudly shouting "la-la-la what march are you talking 
about? I can't hear you. La-la-la."

People/groups that I personally encountered or spotted came from DC, 
Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, not 
just the Carolinas. If I had to guess I'd say overall the crowd was 
2/3rds anglo, 1/3rd Black but that is a very rough ballpark estimate.

By far the most visible organizational presence was the NAACP. At a 
glance you could see that this was a movement led by the NAACP. Even as 
the crowd was dispersing at the end, the bottleneck was at the NAACP 
T-shirt and bumper-sticker selling tents.

A surprising (to me) second place in visible presence was held by the 
unitarian universalists; there was also a good sprinkling of people 
identifying with other religious denominations including (among whites) 
Jews, Methodists and Episcopalians. There were signs from various Young 
Democrats college campus affiliates. I saw a couple of signs from a 
teachers' union, and just one calling for immigrant rights.

I ran into comrades from Socialist Alternative selling their newspaper 
and talking up Sawant's Seattle victory. I  did not come across any 
other socialist or left group with a visible presence.

It had very much the feel and obvious intent of trying to evoke and 
resurrect the 1960s southern civil rights coalition of Black folks and 
white liberal churches with an overall religious veneer.

By far the most common signs around specific issues were those alluding 
to attacks on voting rights and the influence of moneyed interests on 
electoral politics, followed by references to Medicaid expansion. (As it 
turns out, medicaid expansion is pretty popular in the Southeast; polls 
in Georgia, for example, show it has majority support, unlike the Muslim 
communist Kenyan atheist terrorist abomination of Obamacare.)

But the overwhelming tone was disgust and repudiation of Republican 
state government attacks on everything from education to unemployment 
insurance to safeguarding the environment.

The presence of the union movement was feeble; the state AFL-CIO either 
failed to notice this event was happening or heard about it but decided 
to go back to sleep anyways. There was, of course, a presence from the 
couple of North Carolina locals that brothers and sisters from some 
organizations have been influential members of for some time.

Apart from the one sign I mentioned and just one among the 2-3 dozen 
"you-have-30-seconds" rally speakers, there was no Latino presence even 
though the Raleigh-Durham  metro area is more than 10% Latino (about the 
same as the Atlanta metro area).

The main orator was the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the 
state NAACP and described in the press hand outs as "convener" of the 
moral march.

He was introduced as follows:

"Every moment in history brings out a leader, every moment in history 
brings out a moral leader, every moment in history has its own prophet, 
and North Carolina has raised a prophet in these times, for this time. 
He is here to speak to us today, to inspire us, to give us the truth. to 
encourage us. He is a man of integrity, a man of deep faith, and he is 
why we've gathered, to march with him, to restore justice to our state. 
Give it up for the Rev. Dr. William Barber."

He projected a clear and unambiguous pro-Democrat electoralist strategy 
of registering voters and turning them out in November covered with the 
barest fig-leaf of "regardless of party" disclaimers.

In between his introduction and his political projections, I found 
myself disinclined to edit and post the video of his speech that I had 
recorded. I found it to be that off-putting. I prefer my prophets to be 
unaccompanied by a Squealer ... or a bourgeois party.

*  *  *

That night, back in Greensboro, I chatted with other Guilford College 
parents as well as profs and some students I've gotten to know, making 
it a point to mention I was at this event. Everyone was aware of the 
moral Monday movement, and most were aware of the march, and 
enthusiastically welcomed the news of its spectacular success.

I didn't get to finish telling my own Squealer my conflicted feelings 
before he cut in with words to the effect that this whole "moral Monday" 
shtick seemed a little flaky. Still, he said, getting that many people 
out was more significant than it flakiness.


On 2/17/2014 11:49 AM, Robert C. wrote:
> I saw the article in Labor Notes by Ajamu Dillahunt 
> http://labornotes.org/2014/02/tens-thousands-north-carolina-vow-not-now-not-ever 
> and one on SW 
> http://socialistworker.org/2014/02/12/forward-together-in-north-carolina 
> I did see that Joaquin posted photos on social media but not sure if 
> those were a repost or if he was there himself.
> Robert C. (DFW Texas)
> On Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 10:36 AM, Eric <eschuster3 at gmail.com 
> <mailto:eschuster3 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Anyone participating in the North Carolina demos, or organizing?
>     Or links to good assessments? Thanks
>     Eric S
>     _______________________________________________
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>     Members at solidarity-us.org <mailto:Members at solidarity-us.org>
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