Raleigh, NC—Not many people would blame Karen Holliman if she stayed home in Durham and enjoyed an unseasonably beautiful Saturday. She didn’t.
“I’m here with stage-four cancer, and it’s in every vertebra in my back. I just really wanted to be a part of this,” Holliman says, as singing and chanting echoes off of the buildings in downtown Raleigh. “Every day is crazy…. I just really worry about the future of our children, our environment, our schools. All of it.”
Holliman, along with her friend and neighbor Heidi Hannapel, joined an estimated 80,000 others and nearly 200 groups at the 11th annual Forward Together Moral March, led by North Carolina NAACP president Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II. And despite the political circumstances that surrounded the march—chiefly, the new Trump administration and a state legislature that still has two veto-proof Republican majorities—Barber is optimistic about the future. “I think we’re seeing the adolescent growing pains of a third Reconstruction,” he says.
In 2016, North Carolina seemed to be the epicenter of mass protest in the United States. The passage of anti-LGBTQ and anti-worker House Bill 2—known by most Americans as the bathroom bill—in March sparked numerous protests throughout the year. Large demonstrations in protest of a special session in December aimed at curbing the power of the state’s new Democratic governor ended with over 50 people arrested. And outside of Raleigh, the Charlotte uprising in September brought to light community anger over the death of Keith Scott, who was, at that point, the sixth person killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in 2016.
This year, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the kind of protests frequently seen in North Carolina have been spreading across the nation. Up to 5 million people worldwide joined in the Women’s March in January, including 17,000 in Raleigh. Demonstrations at airports round the country following Trump’s Muslim ban included over a thousand people who converged on Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the arrest of six in Charlotte. And last weekend, thousands protested Trump’s immigration policies near the state legislative building.