Rev. Barber: Wake facing public emergency

NAACP North Carolina State Conference President William J. Barber II. (AP image)
June 16, 2010 3:29:57 PM PDT
The four people who were arrested at Tuesday night's Wake County Board of Education meeting spoke out about the incident Wednesday.

The peaceful protest against Wake's diversity policy change ended with arrests that included NAACP NC President William Barber. Barber and three others disrupted the meeting with a song and a sit-in.

When the group refused to leave voluntarily, Raleigh police took them into custody.

Barber spoke about the incident Wednesday during a news conference at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. He represented all of those who participated in the sit-in and says the group acted because Wake is facing a public emergency.

"This ill considered decision seeks to wipe away in six months what it took more than a century of tears and sweat and blood, and even death, to accomplish," Barber said.

He believes the decision to return to neighborhood school assignments could lead to resegregated schools.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta says the protestors who were arrested are not allowed back on school grounds, which is standard after someone is arrested for trespassing on school grounds.

He also says the lawsuit the school board won, which cited open and fair meeting law violations, is being appealed.

"We were willing to be arrested, but they refused to listen," arrested demonstrator Tim Tyson said.

Tyson is a Duke Divinity School professor and author of Blood Done Sign My Name. The book and movie are about his father's stand against prejudice in civil rights-era Oxford, N.C.

"We've asked to have some time to talk to the board, but they've refused to do that," Tyson added. "So, we felt like something had to be done. They're riding roughshod over the school system."

Tyson says as participants in civil disobedience to support the concept of busing for diverse schools, the four arrestees follow in big footsteps.

"Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker," he added. "We're glad to be sitting in that tradition."

Wake Schools intend to implement its new student assignment policy by July 2012.

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