RALEIGH — The leader of a North Carolina civil rights group arrested last year for disrupting a House session said Wednesday he and representatives of other groups are back at the Legislative Building to persuade lawmakers to work to benefit all citizens.
The Rev. William Barber of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People spoke at a news conference during a lobbying day for his group and dozens of other organizations that back a 14-point agenda. The agenda promotes well-funded and diverse schools, support for the poor and collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Barber urged lawmakers to move away from what he called were right-wing policies that are moving North Carolina backward and to embrace issues such as a more progressive tax system that eliminates corporate loopholes.
Barber said there also can be no room for compromise on requiring photo identification for voters or on repealing the Racial Justice Act, which allows a judge to reduce a death-row prisoner’s sentence to life without parole if it’s determined racial bias played a significant role in issuing a death sentence.
Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the Racial Justice Act repeal and a voter ID bill last year. Republicans in charge of the Legislature have been unable to overturn them. Barber said the state needs to go further and address racial disparities through the criminal justice system.
“We will never compromise whenever anybody wants to undermine equal protection under the law for any person,” Barber told supporters.
Barber was one of several protesters who stood and shouted in the House gallery a year ago Thursday before a rally opposing the chamber’s budget bill. He pleaded guilty this month to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He received no sentence. Barber has returned to the building several times since his arrest.