NC CIVIL RIGHT LEADERS
BRACE FOR NEW GOP VOTER
SUPPRESSION EFFORT HERE
By Cash Michaels
Last week, one day after Georgia Republican lawmakers passed what many critics call sweeping voter suppression legislation designed to restrain the Black vote after a disastrous November 2020 presidential election, and January 2021 Senate runoff elections that Democrats won, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, tweeted, “Voter Suppression is always a racist tactic with an economic goal. Those who attack voting rights fear poor and low-wealth Americans - Black, brown, Native, Asian and White.”
Indeed, Barber just wasn’t remarking on the political machinations of the Peach state, but 42 other states with Republican-led legislatures, like Florida, that, under the guise of combating “voter fraud” - are reportedly considering 253 bills designed to retool their election laws to make it easier for Republicans to win close elections.
North Carolina has joined this latest brazen GOP effort yet, but state civil rights leaders ay it is just a matter of time before Republican legislative leaders decide to join the join the wave.
“The Grand Old Party is a desperate band of rogues who fully understand that in order to stay in power it is imperative for them to persist systematically,” says Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP.
“If truth be told, the North Carolina General Assembly has never let up one inch since 2011 (when Republicans took charge), so I expect some replication of Georgia's attempt. Unfortunately, the inestimable harm their actions cause to the masses is not their concern. They are bent on pushing their brand of 'election integrity' and theirs alone, nothing else will do. Honest, fair and open elections are counterproductive and a fatal blow to their policies.”
The NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee Chairman Atty Irving Joyner, agrees. He notes that the widespread voter suppression we’re seeing in state after state now is reminiscent of what North Carolina Republicans did in 2013, when the state was considered a petrie dish for such GOP tactics.
“The struggle which faces voting rights in Georgia is eerily similar to the fight that we successfully waged on North Carolina against the Monster Suppression Bill that the General Assembly enacted in 2013,” atty Joyner recalls. “Despite that victory, they continued efforts to restrict and obstruct the voting rights of African Americans and people of color and their efforts to participate in the political process.”
“Efforts to restrict these voting rights are still continuing in North Carolina and will remain with us until these opponents and their allies are removed from office.”
Indeed, like a dripping faucet, North Carolina Republicans are slowly but surely beginning to file a handful of bills that seek to restructure the state’s election system, even though, unlike other states, the historic avalanche of voters in the November 2020 elections actually rewarded Republicans statewide more than Democrats.
In recent days, North Carolina Republicans have filed bills to limit the number of mail-in absentee ballots; making Election Day the deadline for absentee mail-in ballots, instead of the three-days later allowed during the pandemic last year; restricting the state attorney general from entering any agreement or settlement without the joint approval of the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore (thus preventing any election year court settlements involving balloting as in 2020).
In comparison, Democrats have filed at least two bills - one seeking again to establish a nonpartisan independent redistricting commission, given that Republicans have again won the right to redraw North Carolina voting districts for the next ten years.
Another to establish automatic voter registration in the state.
“The actions we’ve seen from Republicans across the country and right here in North Carolina to perpetuate baseless claims about our elections and attempt to restrict access to voting are deeply harmful to our democracy,” said NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson. “North Carolina Democrats are committed to ensuring the people of North Carolina can make their voice heard in our elections.”
Atty. Joyner says the fight for voting rights per Black people will be never-ending.
“The full enactment of H.R. 1 and S.R. 1 in Congress will assist to resist these suppression efforts, but, unfortunately, these right-wing conservative forces will continue their efforts to deny and prevent people of color from being full and progressive forces in the North Carolina democracy,” Joyner insists. “So while passage of this federal protections will help, there will remain a regressive mind-set and population in this nation which will continually seek to undermine our constitutional rights as American citizens.”
“Based upon American history, the struggle by African Americans and other people of color to maintain full citizenship rights and protections in this state and country will continue throughout our lifetime. We can never forget or disregard that right-wing history and the stark reality that this struggle continues.”
BLACK MOTHER REFUSES
TO APOLOGIZE TO WHITE
MEN SHE SAYS VIOLATED
By Cash Michaels
A Pender County Black mother says she will not apologize to two white men whom she alleges came to her home in the middle of the night last May 3rd, armed and part of an angry “mob,” demanding entry in search of a missing child who wasn’t there.
Monica Shepard made her position clear in an interview with CNN last weekend in reaction to the two men - Jordan Kita and Robert Austin Wood - being recently acquitted by a District Court judge of charges stemming from the incident.
“I’ve said this before - it’s about accountability,” Ms Shepard, who, with her teenage son Dameon, are suing Kita, Wood, and at least thirteen other members of the “mob” for committing “…racialized terror when they approached and menaced a Black family in their …home,” according to a press release.
“You can’t just form a mob and go around being vigilante citizens,” Ms. Shepard continued. “There’s laws against that. I’m not interested in sitting down [to discuss anything]. It’s all about accountability at the end of the day.”
Attorneys for Kita, a former New Hanover County sheriff’s deputy, and Wood, have threatened to sue Ms. Shepard, her son, and her attorneys for allegedly portraying Kita, Wood and the others involved as white racists, and are demanding that the Shepards drop their lawsuit, sit down and discuss the “misunderstanding” with the former defendants, and then apologize to them, or face litigation for slander.
Those attorneys contend that Kita and wood have lost they reputations, tens of thousands of dollars in income, and have been subject to threats, thus making them victims, too.
Ms. Shepard has refused, and her attorneys have told CNN that their lawsuit against Kita, Wood and company will move forward.
By now the May 3rd incident has become nationally infamous.
Kita, then a New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy, led a group of neighbors and supporters in search of a missing young family member, hearing that she had been seen in a Pender County neighborhood.
Kita was still in uniform when he and his group went to the Shepard’s home. According to Dameon Shepard, who was 18 at the time, when he answered the door, Kita, in uniform complete with service revolver, demanded to know if he was a black teen alleged to be harboring the missing girl. When Dameon denied knowing anything about it, he alleges Kita put his foot in the door, not allowing Dameon to close it.
Dameon saw the revolver, and another member of “mob” standing on the property outside with a weapon as well.
A back-and-forth ensued, waking Dameon’s mother, who came out , saw the angry white crowd though the window, and Deputy Kita still at the door insisting on coming in.
Ms. Shepard had to reiterate what her now upset son had told Kita, and demand the he and his group leave her property. By now, neighbors had come out of their homes because of the commotion, and the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. had been called.
Kita was fired from his job as a New Hanover County deputy, and ultimately charged by the Pender County District Attorney’s Office with forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties.
Wood was charged with going armed to the terror of the community for carrying his weapon.
In court, Kita apologized for his actions, Wood said he did not carry the weapon top intimidate anyone, and they both disputed that the Shepards were threatened in anyway, and certainly not racially.
The Shepards attorneys are not convinced, despite the acquittals.
“I think this is all a distraction from the real issues at hand,” Arusha Gordon, associate director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate which is leading the lawsuit.” “…[L]ast May a large group of White people showed up armed late at night, invaded [the Shepards’] home and sense of privacy and put our clients in fear of their lives.”
Gordon also dismissed allegations by Kita and Wood’s defense attorneys that likening the Shepard incident to KKK actions was defamatory, telling CNN, “You can’t divorce North Carolina’s and the country’s history of racist mob violence from this case.”
“That a group of White people didn’t consider the optics “or the fact that their actions would totally terrify our clients” demonstrates the persistence of White privilege,” Gordon added.
One of the attorneys with the Lawyers Committee heading up the case, Jennifer Nwachukwu, told CNN, “We are here to fight for and advocate for the rights of the Shepards and what they experienced on May 3rd. At this point in history, these kinds of behaviors will not be tolerated. People will not stand by and have these experiences and not feel empowered to seek justice for themselves.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR APRIL 1, 2021
CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP CHARGES STEIN IS WEAK ON RACIAL JUSTICE
[RALEIGH] A Durham-based social action group has released a public letter charging that NC State Attorney General Josh Stein is all talk but little to no action when it comes advocating for racial justice. On Tuesday, the group, Emancipate NC, blasted Stein for defending convictions in state appellate court where racial discrimination in jury selection and death sentences have been alleged. The State Attorney General’s Office has replied that Stein is co-chair of the Racial Equity in Criminal Justice Task Force, and “…is committees to pursuing justice for all in his work as Attorney General.
NC NAACP SUES TO HAVE CONFEDERATE STATUE IN ALAMANCE COUNTY REMOVED
[GRAHAM] The NC NAACP, along with the Alamance County NAACP and others, have filed a lawsuit against the Alamance Board of Commissioners to have the Confederate statue in front of the county courthouse removed. The suit, filed Tuesday in Superior Court, alleges that the statue honors white supremacy and violates the North Carolina Constitution. The statue was erected in 1914 during the Jim Crow era to honor “white supremacy and the Confederacy,” the suit claims.
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO RAISE THE AGE FOR MARRIAGE
[RALEIGH] Under current law, 14 and 15-year-old North Carolinians can, with a judge’s permission, get married in North Carolina if they are pregnant or already have children. Two bills in the legislature seek to change child marriage in the state, making the base age at 18. What is troubling lawmakers is that statistics show minors aren’t marrying each other, but marrying adults, opening the door for human sex trafficking. Both bills - one in the House and the other in the state Senate - are in committees currently.