For Noah Read, Mondays have become a day set aside for civil disobedience. For months, the 42-year-old from Burlington, N.C., has rearranged his work schedule as a restoration contractor so he can participate in weekly protests. The Moral Monday rallies, launched by the North Carolina NAACP outside the state’s general assembly in late April, continue to attract thousands to Raleigh to voice opposition to a spate of Republican-led legislation that critics pan as socially regressive. The issues range from an education budget devoid of teacher raises to the state’s decision to end federal unemployment benefits. “There’s one issue that affects all of the constituents that are gathering at Moral Mondays, and that is voting rights and voting access,” Read said. Now, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington, the state that was the site of the Greensboro sit-ins protesting segregation in 1960 is again a flash point in the debate over voting rights — proving for many that the struggle for racial equality is not over.
In July, North Carolina became the first state to tighten voting laws after the Supreme Court’s contentious decision to strike down the part of the Voting Rights Act that determined which jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices were required to obtain Justice Department approval before changing their voting laws. The state’s changes include eliminating same-day registration, cutting early voting by seven days, doing away with early registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and accepting only certain forms of photo identification.
“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID, and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a press release.
The protests in Raleigh inspired Read to get politically involved. Read, who is white, joined his local NAACP chapter. One week before the anniversary of the 1963 march, he was organizing a bus trip to send Moral Monday protesters to Charlotte.
“I think we’re all looking to the successes to the past, but I think it’s very important not to just reminisce,” Read said. “You think you come up with solutions, but challenges don’t often stay solved.”