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  • Writer's pictureMostafa Marmousa

‘Moral Monday’ movement leader coming to Mid-Missouri

An incipient movement for direct action to promote Medicaid expansion, block voter ID laws and support education funding over tax cuts will bring high-powered help to Columbia to learn how civil disobedience and other action is putting pressure on lawmakers in North Carolina and elsewhere.

William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the "Moral Monday" movement in that state, will be in town at 7 p.m. April 1 at Second Missionary Baptist Church for a rally with Columbia Faith Voices. The event will kick off the "Moral Missouri" movement and be followed by a protest April 3 at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

Barber will be here so "we can learn from their experience and to imagine how we could do something really powerful here in Missouri to bring dignity back to the center of public life," said Katie Jansen-Larson, director of organizing for Missouri Faith Voices.

The Moral Monday movement holds regular protests at the North Carolina Capitol and is credited in part for driving down the approval ratings for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-dominated legislature in that state.

Barber could not be reached this morning for an interview. In an appearance yesterday on MSNBC, he said the movement is nonpartisan. Its aim, he said, is to change policies "wrapped in tea party extremism, where the argument is the way to a better society is to deny education, deny health care, deny voting rights, deny women's rights, deny immigrant rights, deny rights to the LGBT community, deny labor rights, deny the minimum wage, and then if you want to really have a great society, the extremists say, give people more guns and give more tax cuts to the wealthy."

North Carolina GOP Chairman Claude Pope, in a February news conference, attacked the Moral Monday protests. "Barber's use of inflammatory, divisive and offensive rhetoric has no place in the public arena of ideas," Pope said.

In Missouri, Republican leaders are pushing bills to impose voter ID laws, increase the waiting periods for abortions, weaken labor unions, nullify federal gun control laws and cut taxes on business profits.

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Carl Kenney II, a minister and journalist who returned to Columbia after more than two decades in North Carolina, is helping organize the events. "What we have seen is a wave of legislation that is pushing people back who have been gradually reaching the quality of life they want for themselves and their children," he said. "We are willing to do what we can to bring some attention to how this has impacted us."

The events next week are aimed at enlisting support for a "Covenant for a Moral Missouri" and training people to organize a larger movement, Jansen-Larson said. The Moral Monday movement has engaged in civil disobedience in North Carolina and other states. Last week in Georgia, 39 people, including Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, were arrested in a protest for Medicaid expansion.

The movement isn't ready for civil disobedience in Missouri, Jansen-Larson said. "We are not trying to create a moment, but we are trying to create a movement," she said.

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