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Attendees applaud during the rally, which brought roughly 400 people to the Harvest House in Boone. Kellen Short | Watauga Democrat.

Originally published: 2013-08-29 15:59:38
Last modified: 2013-08-29 16:18:28

Hundreds gather for Boone rally

In November 2012, local Republicans gathered at the Harvest House in Boone to celebrate their successes electing Republicans to state leadership.

On Wednesday, roughly 400 people gathered in the same spot to rally against the direction that Republican force has led the state in the last 10 months.

The Boone rally, called "Taking the Dream Home," was one of 13 occurring simultaneously across the state, urging residents to fight against what organizers called restrictive and damaging policies on education, unemployment, abortion and voting rights.

"The simultaneous rallies will show the nation that the Forward Together Movement is strong and growing," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, in a statement. Barber also sent recorded remarks to the Boone event, which was coordinated in conjunction with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"It is in eastern North Carolina and western North Carolina, in rural areas and big cities," he said. "It is white, black and brown. It is young and old, and it is bringing people together around a commitment to addressing the extremism in the public policy of the N.C. General Assembly with a moral critique."

The evening of music and speeches was punctuated frequently by chants of "Forward together -- not one step back" and references to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"As best I can tell, it's about 1963," said ASU Professor Matt Robinson, saying the voting measures enacted recently at the national, state and local levels had caused Americans to revert to the past.

"I have a dream that we will return to the 21st century," he said.

Teacher Jennifer Lacy, president of the Watauga County Association of Educators, spoke about the increasing demands and lack of support causing teachers to leave the profession. She encouraged those in attendance to pay attention to changes such as the elimination of teacher tenure, class size caps, extra pay for master's degrees and other facets of public education.

Todd Carter, director of development for the Hospitality House, called it "godless, soulless policy" for the government to let the needy struggle by refusing to expand Medicaid and to cut unemployment benefits.

"The dream is under attack from the state house in Raleigh to the courthouse on King Street," Carter said.

Other speakers, including Dr. Marye Hacker, Rio Tazewell and Veronica Lozano-Toub, addressed other recent legislative actions while Todd Wright and friends, Kat Chaffin, Melissa Reaves and the Mennonite Brethren Church choir offered musical breaks.

Eighteen area residents also took to the stage to be recognized, arrestees of the Moral Monday protests at the General Assembly in Raleigh. Watauga County resident Tom McDonough drew laughter as he described his personal "tour" of the Wake County Detention Center.

"Many schools wish they had as nice facilities as (the jail) had," McDonough said.

Keynote speakers included Timothy Tyson and Brother Wesley Jarel Morris.

Tyson is a Duke University professor and author of "Blood Done Sign My Name," a 2004 work that is part memorial and part historical account of the killing of Henry Marrow, a black man, in 1970 in Oxford.

He spoke about his mother's generation, in which women became teachers because there were few other professional options available to them. Tyson said it's no wonder teachers are leaving the profession now that they can put their intellects to use elsewhere.

Tyson spoke against the state government policies that he believed would lead to widespread privatization until needy children would be the only ones remaining in public education.

"Make no mistake about it, they intend to destroy public schools," Tyson said.

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