Becky Goldman was born to march. “My parents are animal rights activists and they had a protest sign in my hand since I was in a stroller,” she said.
On Saturday, the sign in Goldman’s hand displayed a brief message: “OMG GOP WTF.” It was adorned with the kind of plastic gemstones one buys to glue on a homemade princess wand. Waiting with her friends for Moral March on Raleigh to begin, she was stopped often and asked to pose for a picture.
Goldman flew from Seattle to join her best friend, Fuquay-Varina resident Rachel Weber, for the eleventh annual event, which drew estimated crowds of about eighty thousand people
. Organizers say it may be the largest, youngest crowd yet to attend the march, which is put on by the N.C. NAACP
and a coalition known as Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKonJ.
Walking from the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts to the Capitol, marchers carried signs calling for health care for all, the repeal of HB 2, and the end of gerrymandering, hate, and Islamophobia. Others hoisted up a cell phone, live streaming the action around them or taking a selfie. There were people with walkers and people with strollers.
Since President Trump’s inauguration, it feels like there’s been a protest every week in the Triangle, not to mention nationwide. Last week, thousands converged on Halifax Mall in Raleigh
to protest Trump’s immigration policies. The week before that, fifteen hundred headed to Raleigh-Durham International Airport
for the same cause. For Moral Marchers who spoke to the INDY
Saturday, this burst of dissent isn’t just a trend or a brief moment in which hashtag activism leapt off the screen: it’s here to stay.
Like many people at Saturday’s march, Weber is a new but eager protester. She’s been busy calling representatives in Washington, D.C., urging them to vote against Trump’s cabinet nominees
. Carmen Covington-Davis, who has long been involved with her local NAACP chapter, is looking to devote her time to social justice causes now that her daughter has grown up and left the house. Pari Sethuraman, Shaneisa Davis, Melissa Cole, and Emily Wolf are starting a podcast called Pretty Magical Shit
(aka PMS) to talk about how sexism and gender inequality play out in everyday life. Wolf and Cole “got their feet wet” at a recent No Ban, No Wall rally and feel like attending a large, statewide event like the Moral March was the next step in their activism.
For all four friends, the election of Trump was a crystallizing moment that prompted them to attend their first protests. Never before has presidential politics threatened “humanity,” Sethuraman said, and not just one party.
“I’ve usually stayed out of politics, but now I feel like I can’t. This administration turned us into activists,” she said. “As long as he is in office I think there will be protests every week.”
Cardes Brown, the state NAACP’s religion chair, agrees that Trump’s election bolstered Saturday’s crowd because his policies have taken aim at so many different groups. He says the Moral March and the Women’s March—which drew nearly three million participants worldwide the day after Trump’s inauguration
, including seventeen thousand in Raleigh
—are evidence that we are “witnessing a culture of protest growing.”
Several marchers cited the diverse voices present Saturday as a reason protests won’t cease anytime soon. As marcher Karen Hoffman put it, “Too many of us are too pissed” for this current wave of dissent to fizzle out.
Each group offended by Trump has its own set of grievances. Too-broad agendas have been a criticism aimed at protest movements before, from Occupy to the Women’s March. The Moral March People’s Agenda features fourteen broad goals
, each with specific actions steps. But several marchers said that representing so many causes makes an event like the Moral March more approachable.
“The agenda gives a lot of different people entry into the movement,” said Jesse Brunson, an Orange County pastor who attended the march with his daughter, Margaret, and a member of his congregation.
Goldman, the marcher from Seattle, says what will keep the current momentum going is for people to learn how the causes that matter to them connect to the causes that matter to other marchers.
Kate Maloy and Michele Phillips also point to the role of technology and corporations. Protests can be organized faster than ever before via social media, said Maloy, whose last march was in the Vietnam War era. Companies like Facebook and Microsoft
have spoken out against Trump’s travel ban. Whatever worries Phillips had that her fellow protesters would grow tired of marching and discouraged by a lack of immediate change were countered by HKonJ’s hundreds of partner agencies
The Reverend William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president, told the crowd to keep marching after Saturday. But he also suggested that this defiance isn’t new at all, but rather the loudest moment of a crescendo that began with the start of Moral Mondays in 2013.
“We march not as a spontaneous action but as a movement that stands upon deep foundations of organizing that have gone on for years setting the groundwork for times such as this,” he said. “Four years later we realize we have been preparing all along for such a time as this.”