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ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The president of the state NAACP urged people to vote out politicians he called extremists during the Mountain Moral Monday rally at Pack Square Park.

The crowd on Monday was about 3,500, according to a police estimate. The number is far fewer than the 10,000 the event attracted last year.

The Rev. William Barber, at a press conference ahead of the rally, said judging the success of a movement by numbers is a mistake. He said people, at times, tried to judge the civil rights movement in the 1960s by the number of people marching and attending rallies.

"We love numbers," he said, "but we don't live or die by numbers."

The real judge of movement's success is whether it is changing the state's policies and influencing its lawmakers.

Barber said that is happening in North Carolina and offered as evidence what he called an effort by the Republican-controlled legislature to appear kinder and gentler.

He fired up the crowd with a speech that hit many of the themes of the speeches he has given across North Carolina in the last year.

The Republican dominated state legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, he said, are hurting the poor by failing to expand Medicaid and even cutting the program in the budget passed in the legislative short session this summer.

Barber said lawmakers are hurting schools and children by not adequately funding education. They have taken away rights through sweeping restrictions on how people vote, he said. They have raised taxes on working people and cut taxes for the rich and corporations, he said.

The GOP is also harming the environment by clearing the way for the controversial practice of hydraulic natural gas mining called fracking, other rally speakers said. They have marginalized a group of state residents by amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage, the speakers said.

Barber urged every person at the rally to register 10 to 15 new voters.

"Today is not just Moral Monday but it's the moral march to the polls," he said. "We must blow the minds of MSNBC and CNN when November comes. We must make them say we ain't never seen nothing like this before. It's time for the new South to rise again."

Rev. Joe Hoffman, of Asheville's First Congregational United Church of Christ, said good government comes from an informed public.

"We can make a difference we will make a difference and we need everybody's help to do that," he said.

Signs in the crowd read "Love thy neighbor" and "Cutting funds for education is just wrong."

Asheville resident Byron Ballard brought a rusty and ancient-looking pitchfork with a broken handle.

"We all know they only way you get the monsters out of the castle is with a flaming torch and a pitchfork," she said.

She was hoping someone else brought the torch.

For the past 67 weeks, Barber has led the civil disobedience campaign called Moral Mondays at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. The Asheville rally was the second annual Mountain Moral Monday.

The Raleigh protests gained national attention last year, as thousands poured into Halifax Mall each week and sometimes into the state General Assembly building, where hundreds were arrested. Charges have been dismissed in some cases and the legislature, during the short session this summer, tightened protest rules.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Thousands attend Mountain Moral Monday in Asheville

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