A multi-denominational vigil remembering those who died in Orlando last week and the nine churchgoers killed in Charleston a year ago drew about 100 people to mourn and hear exhortations to reject hate and discrimination.
Clergy and others urged the crowd of about 100 to embrace love and nonviolence. At the end of the two-hour vigil, participants stood with portraits of those slain, and four doves were released to fly over Bicentennial Mall across from the Legislative Building. The Rev. William Barber II, head of the state NAACP chapter, said the doves represented Orlando, Charleston, love and justice.
Imam Dr. Salahuddin Muhammad of the As-Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh claimed solidarity between Muslims and the LGBT community.
Orlando gunman Omar Mateen was a monster, not a Muslim, he said. The true practitioners of the Islamic faith would never kill innocents.
This event had a different tenor from other Moral Monday protests held over the years, gatherings that usually center on government policy and sometimes lead to arrests. The anti-Vietnam War anthem Blowin in the Wind played before the vigil, and We Are the World played during it.
Easter Thomas of Charlotte wiped tears after Barber urged people to hug. Thomas said she was a lesbian and was supporting my brothers and sisters by attending.
Its so emotional, more emotional than I anticipated, said Thomas, a nurse. This made it more real, seeing the faces of all who died.
Camille Morgan, a retired medical transcriptionist from Lexington, carried a sign that said More Love Compassion Understanding beside Less Hate Fear Bigotry.
Morgan said she was attending her first Moral Monday because she was really disgusted with voter suppression, House Bill 2, and other laws.
Ive been thoroughly, thoroughly disgusted. Its time for me to have a voice and do something about it, she said.
Though the vigil was more like a religious service than a protest, some of the comments were tinged with politics. Barber praised a handful of legislators present, all Democrats.
Ignoring needs of people is violence, said Barber. He called HB2, the law limiting LGBT discrimination protections, the worst LGBTQ bill in the country, and said the states refusal to expand Medicaid in line with the federal health-care law has led to more than 1,000 deaths.
Serena Sebring, North Carolina organizer with Southerners on New Ground, said the LGBT community is under siege and faces rampant bigotry.
Our very lives are an act of resistance, she said. Architects and supporters of HB2 put a target on our peoples backs.
The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of Greensboro called legislators monsters and hypocrites for not supporting a minimum wage high enough to be a living wage.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party, said the speakers were wrongheaded and are ignoring state successes.
For this group to blame anybody other than the terrorist responsible for terrorist acts shows you how far they will go to distract from the success of Gov. (Pat) McCrory and the Republicans which have raised teacher pay more than any state while cutting taxes, Woodhouse said in a statement. As these radicals are clearly part of the Roy Cooper for Governor effort, of course they don't want to tell you that North Carolina now has the fastest growing economy in the nation because of McCrory/GOP policies.