Protesters march around governor's mansion; he was in South Carolina
RALEIGH — About 150 people marched in a solemn procession around North Carolina's Executive Mansion on Monday to protest voting law changes by the state's Republican-led legislature.
But Gov. Pat McCrory wasn't there to see them. His office said he was attending a Republican Governors Association meeting in Charleston, S.C.
The marchers carried empty caskets to memorialize the four little girls killed in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church 50 years ago this week.
North Carolina NAACP President William Barber said the blood of those girls helped ensure the passage of voting rights that must now be defended.
"We call on the governor to remember the blood that had to be shed for us to come this far and why we can never go back," Barber said.
Barber spoke while standing across the street from the locked gates of the stately Victorian mansion, which was built using convict labor. As the protesters circled the block carrying the coffins, some of the state prison inmates still tasked with maintaining the leafy grounds peered at them through the iron bars.
The turnout for the latest Moral Monday protest was more modest that the hundreds or thousands that typically rallied during the legislative session, which ended in July. The weekly protests triggered more than 930 arrests.
Republican legislators and the state's GOP governor have touted the strict photo identification requirement included in the new law as a tool to prevent in-person voter fraud, which they say is endemic and undetected.
However, the measure — approved in the waning hours of the last night of the legislative session — also contained more than 40 other provisions. Among them: the end of same-day voter registration, a one-week shortening of the period for early voting, and the elimination of a popular civics program that encouraged high school students to register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
The NAACP and a coalition of left-leaning groups have filed at least three federal lawsuits challenging provisions of the new voting law under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.