WINSTON-SALEM – Testimony on North Carolina’s voting law resumes this morning in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom. Last night the N.C. NAACP held a rally protesting the law in the downtown area. The group said it had more protesters than they expected at the demonstration that coincided with the first day of the case.
At issue is the N.C. voting law that was passed in 2013 to prevent voter fraud and put the state’s voter registration and election-day procedures in step with most other states.
The increased numbers at last night’s rally may be explained by the number of out-of-state protesters. While a significant number were North Carolinians, there were busloads of marchers brought from northern states. Steve Kermer was marching as part of a group of 200 New Yorkers brought down on four buses by Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.
“North Carolina is ground zero for voter suppression,” he said. “People of all background are coming together here and saying we wont tolerate this anymore. We are happy to be here and lend our support.”
The crowd also hailed from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Oaklahoma, some dropping small bills into the trash cans being circulated to collect donations. The cash collected in the crowd is pocket change compared to what the N.C. GOP says protest organizer Rev. William Barber is getting from the attendees’ unions. The N.C. GOP’s “Immoral Monday” website, launched yesterday, links to documents they say shows millions of dollars flowing from the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) to a local group called Carolina Workers Organizing Committee, who in turn pays Action NC over $1 million per year for “payroll services.” Action NC is a group that advocates for the poor and has six full-time employees.
“They can say they don’t pay people, they can say they don’t bus people in from out of state, but there are clearly troubling, deep, deep ties to northern unions,” said said N.C. GOP spokesman Ricky Diaz. “We don’t need them coming in and telling us how to run our state. That’s not the North Carolina way.”
The NAACP is working to draw a connection between fights over voting rights in the 1960s in Selma, Alabama to the courtroom in Winston-Salem this week. The crowd chanted “Salem is our Selma” as they marched blocks around downtown before a rally with Barber, who addressed the new site.
“When folks can’t beat you with truth, they beat you with lies,” he told the crowd. “They’re mad we have friends, but we don’t just have friends, we have angels watching on high.”
The group dispersed to a line of buses and on foot after the hour-long presentation.