"We cannot allow our North Carolina Legislators to silence the voices of our heroes who bravely stand for all of us who are tired, frustrated, and crumbling under the weight of injustice."
Protests have always been a powerful way for communities who are silenced and ignored to make themselves heard and stand for their collective beliefs and values. The right to assemble and exercise free speech are supposed to be among the cornerstones of our constitution and American Democracy, the heart of our values as a nation.
The Boston Tea party was a form of protest, and a critical part of the founding of our country. The women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements were forms of protest that opened up freedoms and opportunities for millions of Americans. But, as we’ve seen too often, there is a tale of two Americas. The right to freedom of expression is accepted and praised as a tool when used by some, but seen as a threat that justifies increased oppression when used by others.
While we took to the streets just weeks ago to protest the death of Tyree Nichols in Memphis and Darryl Tyree Williams right here in Raleigh, Our state Legislators were working to introduce House Bill 40 (HB40) , in an attempt to stifle our cries for justice and stamp out any possibility of opposition to their agendas.
This unnecessary bill criminalizes the right to assemble, protest and exercise free speech, giving harsher sentences to those who lift their voices out in opposition to policies, laws and practices that harm us. It allows us to be charged with a felony offense for speaking our truths to those in power. We cannot allow our North Carolina Legislators to silence the voices of our heroes who bravely stand for all of us who are tired, frustrated, and crumbling under the weight of injustice.
When we look at those of us who are most often marginalized and oppressed, and often have limited resources outside of our collective voices as a way to change our circumstance, it’s clear that this bill will disproportionately harm Black and brown people and the communities that we love and are bravely fighting for.
If HB40 becomes law, it will have an even deeper impact in the state of North Carolina, where people who are convicted of a felony lose their right to vote, even after they have served their time and been released from jail or prison. When paired with North Carolina’s felony disenfranchisement scheme, this bill opens the door for people to be targeted, jailed, and silenced- losing our voices, freedom, and potentially even voting rights- all for exercising our constitutional rights and trying to create a society that’s more just for us all.
We believe that every voice matters as we come together to shape our communities. Our voices should not be silenced, especially by a small few who don’t agree with our right to freedom, fairness, and a better future.
As police brutality continues to be a disturbing reality in America, we stand together, raise our voices and declare that “Black Lives Matter!”.
When corporate greed habitually puts profits over people and refuses to pay a living wage, forcing parents to choose between keeping the lights on and the fridge full, we come together and demand “Living wages now!”.
When public and elected officials roll back our freedoms and erode our rights, we rise up as one and proclaim they must keep their “bans off our bodies!”.
So, when legislators attempt to silence our right to free speech and gut another of our fundamental rights, it matters more than ever that we stand together and say, “Nobody should be able to jail their fellow Americans just because they don’t like what they have to say.”