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Thousands march in Raleigh for HKonJ protest

By Kosta Harlan

'Forward together, not one step back'

HKonJ protest in Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, NC – Over 4000 people marched in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 12 for the 5th annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) protest, organized by the NAACP and the HKonJ Coalition, which is composed of 107 civil rights, religious and social justice organizations. Buses and caravans converged from across the state of North Carolina for the annual protest which centers on a 14-point political program [] for economic justice and civil rights.

Some of the major issues of this year's rally were the ongoing struggle over re-segregation of Wake County schools; the racist attacks on immigrant youth and the struggle for immigrant rights; the effects of the economic crisis on the Black and Latino communities in the state; education cuts to primary schools and higher education; the Racial Justice Act and the disproportionate use of the death penalty against oppressed nationalities; and the lack of collective bargaining for public sector workers in North Carolina.

Addressing these issues, the Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, told a cheering crowd, “We will challenge Democrats who are not progressive. We will challenge Republicans who attempt to revise history.” Republicans are the majority in the state legislature for the first time in 100 years, but the state has a democratic governor, Bev Perdue. In his speech, Rev. Barber said Gov. Perdue should “Veto everything that's wrong.”

Ben Jealous, president of NAACP, marched on Jones Street and spoke to the crowd about segregation. “We're still fighting the old Jim Crow,” Jealous declared. “When they come to you and start preaching 'separate but equal', [remember] it was a lie then, it's a lie now.”

One of the most powerful speakers of the day was Loida Ginocchio-Silva, a young activist with the North Carolina DREAM Team, an immigrant rights organization. In her bi-lingual speech, which brought roars from the crowd, Ginocchio-Silva said, “I'm a human being. And no human can be illegal. On this stage, I am breaking the law. But I say, an unjust law is no law at all. We know that the Jim Crow laws were also laws in this country. I'm here to represent the thousands of undocumented youth whose humanity is currently being criminalized!”

Several of the speakers referenced the democratic struggles of the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples, which brought cheers from the crowd.

The demonstration showed a powerful unity between many nationalities, organizations and causes. The thousands who marched together promised to continue fighting for justice and to support the struggles of all the oppressed in North Carolina.

HKonJ protest in Raleigh, North Carolina

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