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You can always tell when North Carolina NAACP President and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber is having an impact with his fearless and tireless advocacy. It’s always the moment at which paid political hacks on the far right start manufacturing scurrilous personal attacks full of unflattering photos, baseless claims about money and thinly-veiled overtures to their rebel flag-loving supporters.

The latest of these below-the-belt attacks emerged like a virtual stink bomb in recent days as advocates for voting rights advanced their arguments in opposition to the Monster Voter Suppression law that’s now on trial in a federal court in Winston-Salem. The attacks came in the form of some utterly and laughably bogus allegations about “big union money” supposedly underwriting some of Barber’s efforts. The following excerpt from a story on Raleigh’s WTVD is typical:

“Reverend Barber pocketed over $20,000 from the national labor unions to give paid speeches,” alleged N.C. GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.

Setting aside the absurdity of a man like Mr. Harnett — a self-described, professional “Keynote Speaker. Author. Serial Entrepreneur. Success Mastery Leader” (whatever the hell that is) — attacking Rev. Barber for raising a few thousand bucks for his shoestring movement from some allied organizations, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the whole embarrassing episode.

Two years ago, in response to the equally absurd and offensive claims of the Pope-Civitas Institute that Moral Mondays protesters were driven by their desire to rake in boatloads of government cash, I wrote this in a story on the main NC Policy Watch site:

“On the one hand, [the attacks] are just so downright (and comically) crude and ham-fisted that you almost have to cringe in embarrassment for the Pope-Civitas people. Seriously, the notion that giant organizations with proud histories like the NAACP, AARP and the YWCA are protesting the myriad regressive actions of the 2013 General Assembly because some branch happens to administer a few thousand dollars in public funds is just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe that a supposedly serious group – a group nervy enough to describe itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice” – would stoop to allege it.

Similarly, to imply that Rev. William Barber – a courageous man who works night and day at enormous personal sacrifice, physical pain and even personal risk; a man who directs a tiny paid staff and who has, for years, tirelessly traveled the length and breadth if the state in an old minivan to help countless underdog causes – is doing what he is doing in order to advance his own personal financial agenda, is just so utterly wrong and, for lack of a better word, malicious that it must render any fair-minded observer virtually speechless.”

These words are true and apt today as well.

The bottom line: There are plenty of substantive debates to have on the issues championed by the Moral Mondays movement. Let’s hope the sad and uninformed mouthpieces spreading lies and innuendo about Rev. Barber finally come this realization in the near future and abandon their slanderous and pathetic efforts.

News
Crowd outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem

Crowd outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem

The battle over sweeping election law changes adopted in North Carolina in 2013 opened on two fronts yesterday.

In a packed courtroom inside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, attorneys for both the challengers and the state laid out the case they planned to present to U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder over the next several weeks.

State lawmakers knew exactly what they were doing when they stripped away same day registration, cut early voting days and eliminated the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots — provisions used widely by minority voters — Penda D. Hair, an attorney for the North Carolina NAACP, said in her opening statement.

“They were voter suppressors in search of a pretext,” she told the judge.

The state has argued throughout the case that the 2013 changes were neutral on their face, burdening all voters – not just African-American or Latino voters – and that the state’s election laws now resembled those in other states, where same day registration and early voting don’t exist.

But Hair dismissed that argument, saying that other states do not have the same racially-charged history of voter suppression as does North Carolina.

“Poll taxes were neutral on their face,” Hair said. “Literacy tests were neutral on their face. The law teaches it is the impact that matters – an impact that is linked to social and historical conditions – not whether a law explicitly says African Americans or Latinos are not allowed to vote.”

Outside, the trial over the voting changes in the court of public opinion also waged on.

Speakers from the state NAACP held an early morning press conference while their supporters and others from voting rights advocacy groups chanted what’s become the mantra for the Moral Monday movement: “Forward together! Not one step back.”

Ricky Diaz for the NCGOP

Ricky Diaz for the NCGOP

In the opposite corner behind a podium bearing the NCGOP logo, state Republican Party spokesman Ricky Diaz told the media that the election law changes were simply common sense provisions meant to ensure the integrity of the vote.

The parties have identified nearly 100 voters, experts and state officials as possible witnesses in the case, and once opening arguments ended, the challengers began calling them to the stand.

Durham resident Gwendolyn Farrington told the court that she tried to vote near her 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. job, since she couldn’t get to her own precinct, but was told that she had to cast a provisional ballot — which she later learned would not be counted.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the state NAACP, also took the stand yesterday afternoon in advance of a planned Moral Monday voting rights march held at 5 p.m. in Winston-Salem.

“In North Carolina, a literacy test is still on the books,” Barber said. “The Voting Rights Act overruled it, but it remains there as a symbol.”

“In this country we should be doing everything humanly possible to ensure all people can vote,” he added.

Trial will continue day-to-day at the federal courthouse at 251 N. Main Street, Winston-Salem, and is expected to last at least two weeks.   Read here for more on what to expect during the proceedings.

Commentary

“The perpetrator has been arrested, but the killer is still at large.” That’s Rev. William Barber’s insightful take in the aftermath of the Charleston tragedy.

Barber, the President of the North Carolina NAACP, spoke those words today during an interview with Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now! News Hour. As Barber went on to note:

“Reverend Pinckney, as a colleague in ministry, was not just opposed to the flag, he was opposed to the denial of Medicaid expansion, where now the majority of the state is opposing Medicaid expansion where six out of 10 black people live. He was opposed to voter suppression, voter ID in South Carolina. He was opposed to those who have celebrated the ending of the Voting Rights Act, or the gutting of Section 4, which means South Carolina is no longer a preclearance state, and the very district that he served in is vulnerable right now. He was opposed to the lack of funding for public education. He wanted to see living wages raised.

So I would say to my colleagues, let’s take down the flag—to the governor—but also, let’s put together an omnibus bill in the name of the nine martyrs. And all of the things Reverend Pinckney was standing for, if we say we love him and his colleagues, let’s put all of those things in a one big omnibus bill and pass that and bring it to the funeral on Friday or Saturday, saying we will expand Medicaid to help not only black people, but poor white Southerners in South Carolina, because it’s not just the flag.”

You can watch the entire Democracy Now! segment below:

 

News
Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP and Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal speak Monday at the U.S. Capitol

Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP and Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal speak Monday at the U.S. Capitol

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal completed a walk from his small Eastern North Carolina town to the nation’s capital today, calling on national leaders to help rural communities with sparse healthcare options.

The 283-mile walk – the second year the Republican mayor has done it –– was to bring attention to the pressures faced by the nation’s 283 rural hospitals, especially those in states like North Carolina that opted not to expand Medicaid coverage.

O’Neal reached the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday, and was joined at a rally with other advocates and allies, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, Belhaven Town Council member Julian Goff and the Rev. William Barber, head of the N.C. NAACP.

Belhaven, located in Beaufort County near the Pamlico Sound, lost its local hospital in 2014, when the hosptial’s owners opted to shut down the small healthcare facility because it couldn’t afford to stay open after North Carolina lawmakers chose to not expand Medicaid coverage in the state.

Residents now have to travel to Greenville for emergency care, a trip that can take over an hour.

belhaven2

Commentary

The Moral Mondays-Forward Together movement returns to Raleigh today to to blow a little fresh air onto the increasingly wacky goings on in the Legislative Building. In case you missed it, this is “Crossover Week”at the General Assembly and, unfortunately, the deadline has helped give rise to a spasm of new, far right proposals on everything from the death penalty to the spread of guns to, we’re not making this up, teaching K-12 students the wonders of “a strong national defense” and the gold standard.

Click here for the details on this afternoon’s protest. And here’s Rev. William Barber, leader of the state NAACP on what this afternoon’s protests are all about:

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