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Rev. William Barber: The NAACP Will Boycott North Carolina over HB2 & Voter Suppression

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The NAACP has announced it would not hold its convention in North Carolina and urged an international boycott of the state to protest North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom bill and a series of anti-democratic actions taken by the state’s Republican Legislature. The civil rights group described the move as the first step in an economic boycott that could be expanded in North Carolina and replicated in other states that enact laws limiting voting rights and protections for gay and transgender people. North Carolina’s House Bill 2, known as the “bathroom bill,” bars transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity. The NAACP has also accused Republican legislators of committing voter suppression and racial gerrymandering. We are joined in Raleigh, North Carolina, by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. He’s the author of “Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The NAACP has announced it will not hold its convention in North Carolina and urged an international boycott of the state to protest North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom bill and a series of anti-democratic actions taken by the state’s Republican Legislature. North Carolina’s House Bill 2, known as the “bathroom bill,” bars transgender people from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity. The NAACP has also accused Republican legislators of committing voter suppression and racial gerrymandering. This is NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks speaking in North Carolina on Friday.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: The NAACP does not take this matter cavalierly. We understand, as a consequence of constitutional history, that we attempted to boycott in a place called Port Gibson, Mississippi. We were threatened with bankruptcy. We were threatened with bringing our beloved association to its knees. And so, for us to consider, to contemplate a boycott in the midst of this era of voter suppression is a serious matter indeed. These folk understand what they’re calling for. They’re calling for a boycott that will hurt, a boycott that will be painful, a boycott that will literally bring the state to its knees, unless it stands up for civil rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Raleigh, North Carolina, where we’re joined by the Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, the author of Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.

Dr. Barber, welcome back to Democracy Now! You were standing right next to the NAACP national president as he was speaking. Explain why you’re calling for a boycott of your state.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, thank you so much, Amy, for having us again on Democracy North Carolina [sic]. You know, a few weeks ago, we had nearly 100,000 people in the street. And we announced that the state conference of the NAACP—I’m the president—had voted unanimously to approach our national, requesting permission for a boycott. I’m also a member of the national board. And what we have said—we had a unanimous resolution that was passed at the state level and unanimously passed at the national board, first saying that we would remove consideration of our national convention coming to North Carolina, as has the NCAA and the ACC, the NBA, and we would call on our other human rights friends, civil rights friends and conventions to do the same thing.

But, Amy, we expanded the narrative, and we said that, beyond that, we would form a special task force to explore a full boycott and escalation over the next few months on these lines: Number one, we call on the Legislature to repeal, undo racially gerrymandered districts and create fair elections, that not only have we accused them of, but the courts have ruled that our Legislature has passed racial—racialized districts. Number two, we want a repeal of the entire HB 2 law, because it’s not a bathroom law. That bill is an anti-LGBTQ law against transgender people. But it’s also an anti-workers bill, because it does not allow municipalities to raise the living wage or to have minority set-asides. And it is also an anti-access to state courts for employment discrimination cases. Number three, we want a repeal of SB 4, the law that was passed last December after extremists lost, that strike down the governor’s power and don’t—no longer allows the governor to have his own appointments, and they tried to change the board of election. And lastly, we want a repeal of the law that forces us to go to the appellate court rather than the Supreme Court, once our Supreme Court became more progressive in the state.

We want to expand the narrative. We want to expand the narrative. And we want to say to many of our friends who joined the LGBT community, the transgender community, as we did, that this—that we need an expanded narrative, because if we didn’t have voter suppression, and if we did not have voter gerrymandering, racialized, unconstitutional voter gerrymandering, many of the people who were elected that passed HB 2 would not be in office in the first place.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Reverend Barber, your Republican governor, Pat McCrory, has dismissed these protests and the calls for a boycott as basically an action of a left fringe element in your state. Can you respond to that?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, that’s the only thing they say. You know, I don’t use the left-right language. That’s the common thing. They lie. You know, Donald Trump wasn’t the first one to start lying. McCrory used to call Moral Mondays “Money Monday.” He says we’re left, but 11 percent of the people that got arrested over three years with Moral Mondays were Republicans. He has said that it’s a left fringe, but the courts are not a left fringe, and they—North Carolina has been found guilty twice on voter suppression. Last August, we won a case that said their voter—so-called voter integrity law was a voter suppression law, when they cut early voting, cut same-day registration, denied 17-year-olds the right to preregister, and tried to pass not just photo ID, that the Help America Vote Act allows, but they actually wanted to pass the worst form of photo ID, which said that in this state, even if you had a college ID or a federal ID, it still would not be considered valid.

So, we know what McCrory and others do. They use that language because they cannot debate us. They have been found guilty time and time again. Fourteen times this state Legislature has passed laws that have been overturned as being unconstitutional. They know that the HB 2 law was a scapegoat. They tried to use the transgender community to hide inside of that bill these bills that do not allow a municipality to raise living wages. Right now, a city in North Carolina cannot choose on its own to raise their living wages. They cannot have minority set-asides for African-American women and other minorities without going through the Legislature. So, we know the truth. And while they dismiss us, I think Mr. McCrory has a long-term vacation now. I don’t think he’s any longer the governor. And I think that North Carolina was the only state where the coattails of Trump did not trickle down, because we had a movement here. We won the governorship. We won the auditor, the secretary of state. And an African American in North Carolina won the Supreme Court, won by 350,000 votes, making the North Carolina Supreme Court a progressive court for the first time in literally years.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the deal that the state Legislature reneged on. I wanted to go to a clip of the new governor, the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, who said Republicans reneged on a promise to repeal HB 2 last December. Lawmakers failed to overturn the anti-LGBT law, which denies transgender people, of course, the use of the bathroom, changing room or locker room that matches their gender identity. During a rally in December, protesters chanted “Shame! Shame!” as the lawmakers adjourned from a special one-day session. They had made a deal with the Charlotte City Council, who repealed their LGBT protection legislation in exchange for the Legislature repealing HB 2. And yet they adjourned without repealing at the state level. This is Democratic state representative, Equality North Carolina Director Chris Sgro.

PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!

CHRIS SGRO: There’s 275 days after this body passed the worst anti-LGBT bill in the entire nation. Every single day, transgender North Carolinians have suffered and been at risk for discrimination and violence. And every single day, our economy has lost millions upon millions of dollars. PayPal is not coming here. Bruce Springsteen is not coming here.

PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!

CHRIS SGRO: We are going to continue to be sat out as a state because of the image that we are portraying to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Reverend Barber, if you can talk about this? I mean, there’s enormous, enormous economic pressure, and NAACP is bringing that, with the sports teams, with the corporations—over $600 million, it’s believed, lost. But this reneging the deal that was made, that if Charlotte took back, repealed their own pro-LGBT legislation, that the state Legislature would repeal HB 2, and they reneged?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, this has been the characteristic of this Legislature and the former governor. You know, the people in office in our state Legislature are unconstitutionally constituted. As I’ve said, many of them would not be in office except for this racialized gerrymandering.

Now, let me back up just a second. We didn’t agree with the deal anyway. We didn’t think that Charlotte should have to vote the bill down for them to then repeal something that was bad in the first place. Secondly, it is not just the worst LGBTQ bill. It is the worst anti-worker bill and the worse bill that denies access to the courts. I want people to understand the depth of what they did. In North Carolina now, if you have employment discrimination as a heterosexual, as a disabled person, as a veteran, you cannot go to state court, because of this law. So, they did renege, but we didn’t agree on that anyway. We said it shouldn’t have ever been a bill, and it should have been repealed in the first place.

We also are saying to our sports and other people, who are right to boycott and not come to the state because of the attack on transgender, we are going to have to, in many of these states, start having economic pressure when they do voter suppression and gerrymandering, because that’s how the people get in office that are in fact passing these laws.

Now, that session that they called, Amy, was supposed to be a session to get money to hurricane victims. That’s why that session was called. Instead, they refused to repeal HB 2. They then passed Senate Bill 4, taking powers from the governor, denying access to the courts, trying to change our State Board of Elections so the Republicans could still hold power. And then they did pass a little bit of money for the hurricane victims, which should have been done much earlier. So that whole session was a farce. I just want people to understand. That entire session was a farce. And what we know is you cannot trust the current members of our—they’re not Republicans. They are extremists. And I want folk to understand, 14 times since they’ve been in office, they have passed laws that have been proven to be unconstitutional.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, Moral Mondays leader, thanks so much for being with us. We’re going to ask if you will stay for the next segment, when we talk about the Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia that was just desecrated this weekend, perhaps up to 500 tombstones overturned. We’ll be speaking with a local Philadelphia rabbi. And then we’re going to look at the election of Tom Perez to head the DNC. Stay with us.

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