Barber Wins Right to Take Part in May 1st Teacher’s Rally
By CASH MICHAELS
When thousands of public school teachers from across North Carolina come back to Raleigh on May 1st to protest poor working conditions at the NC legislature, the Rev. Dr. William Barber will be there with them.
Thanks to a district court ruling last week, Rev. Barber, former president of the NC NAACP, and currently co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival, once again legally has the right, as any North Carolina citizen, to walk into the NC General Assembly Building, and exercise his First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech, something Republican legislative leaders attempted to prohibit when they banned him from the property in recent years.
“It was a great victory for the people,” Dr. Barber said by phone Saturday from Chicago. “My lawyers have been fighting …and the judge said [to the legislature], ‘You can’t do that. You can’t profile somebody, keep them out of a place when they haven’t done anything violent and have the presumption of innocence.’ And the state admitted that they were doing this specifically to me, which is unconstitutional.”
So why is Dr. Barber participating in the May 1st teachers’ rally?
“The same people who vote against teachers, are the same who block health care, living wages, labor rights and voting rights,” Barber said.
But most people may not realize that Dr. Barber’s parents were also educators who came back to North Carolina in the 1960s to help desegregate public schools.
“It’s a shame and a disgrace to see the level of high poverty, re-segregated schools today in our state,” Dr. Barber continued. “It’s a shame and a disgrace the way we underpay teachers, but we overpay everyone else. We still accept high poverty schools; we’re still not abiding by court decisions that said that North Carolina was in violation of its own Constitution by not properly funding all of our schools.”
“So we have a lot of work to do,” Dr. Barber continued. “We have a legislature that, since they’ve been in office, has cut over a billion dollars in public education, lowering, North Carolina’s standing in the whole country as it relates to high poverty schools and per pupil spending. “If we’re not there, we’re almost below Mississippi, and that is shameful in a state with so much potential and possibilities.”
“So I’m going there to stand with teachers who are demanding, not only raises, but demanding investment in public education, because to invest in a public education is to invest in a better economy, the growth of our people, human capital, and literally invest in our future.”
Dr. Barber continued, “So we’re fighting for education, fairness and justice – some of the critical issues we’re fighting for today.”
Indeed, the agenda of the North Carolina Association of Educators sponsored a march and rally on May 1st is broader than just education issues, public reports say. Living wages, Medicaid expansion, and school voucher spending.
State Senate pro tem president Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) has issued a statement.
“This strike is not about education,” Berger stated. “It is a strike organized by partisan activists with the express intent of eliminating Republicans from the North Carolina General Assembly, and it is at the expense of children who should be in the classroom learning.”