By PHILLIP RAWLS, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ The Moral Mondays movement has spread to Alabama, focusing on a Republican governor and Legislature just as the founders of the protests have done in North Carolina.
William Barber II, a North Carolina minister who started the movement, told a crowd on the state Capitol steps Monday that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the tea party, and some of the Republicans in control in Alabama and North Carolina are nothing like Republican Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower.
“Don’t call them Republicans. That’s an insult to real Republicans. Call them extremists,” he said.
He cited the Legislature’s passage of a law to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls and the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.
“It’s extreme and mighty low to deny Medicaid for thousands of people,” he told the cheering crowd.
Barber, a minister from Goldsboro, North Carolina, started the Forward Together Moral Movement with a Monday rally in Raleigh. Other Monday rallies followed and the events became known as Moral Mondays.
The North Carolina demonstrations have resulted in hundreds of arrests for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Last month, Selma political activist Faya Rose Toure and several others were arrested at the Alabama Capitol after the group refused to leave during a protest over an expansion of Medicaid in the state.
Several organizations, including the Alabama NAACP, organized Monday’s Rally for a Moral Legislative Agenda. The Montgomery rally followed a week of marches around the state Capitol last month.
Benard Simelton, state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the rally was not a one-time event. “This is the beginning of a movement to bring to the governor’s and Legislature’s attention the moral issues we want them to address in 2015,” he said.
One goal, he said, is to get the Legislature to ban job application forms from including a question about whether a person has been convicted of a felony. He said checking the box almost automatically excludes someone from getting a job interview, even if the felony was long ago.
A legislator attending the rally, Democratic Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, said success depends on not farming the issues by political party or race, but rather as “human issues.”
Many of the speeches at Monday’s rally were heated. Toure called the Legislature “extremist and immoral.”
Barber said some politicians fight President Barack Obama not because of his ideas, but because they oppose him personally and the change his presidency represents.
“They are doing all that because they don’t like little black girls having pajama parties in the White House,” he said.