NAACP pushes for national economic boycott of North Carolina

Civil rights activists are also preparing lawsuits and mass protests to pressure the state’s Republican majority.

CREDIT: Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign
CREDIT: Brian Gomsak/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

Late Wednesday night, North Carolina Republicans reneged on their promise to repeal HB2, known colloquially as the “bathroom bill.” The legislation contained a number of controversial provisions, but chiefly banned transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify and barred cities from passing laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. The law has already cost the state hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars.

On Thursday, the North Carolina NAACP announced it will turn up the heat on the state. The group plans to file lawsuits against the state, organize mass protests, and call for an economic boycott to pressure lawmakers to repeal HB2 and other legislation they say infringes on civil rights.

“Enough is enough,” said Reverend Dr. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP. “We must draw a line in the sand. Other states will know that there will be a price to pay whenever people attempt to use a temporary majority status to run roughshod over the Constitution. We need to send the message that if they try this, the people will resist.”

“We need to send the message that if they try this, the people will resist.”

Barber said soon after Christmas, his state conference will send a request to the national NAACP board calling for a national economic boycott of North Carolina. The boycott would continue until state lawmakers fulfill three demands: repeal HB2 in its entirety, repeal another bill Republicans passed in a special session last week giving themselves power over all state and county boards of elections in every year a major election is held, and redraw the state’s racially gerrymandered district maps that have allowed Republicans to maintain a super-majority in the statehouse.

A federal court ruled in November that North Carolina Republicans had intentionally and illegally drawn their voting maps to limit the political power of African-American voters and preserve GOP control over the state legislature. The court ordered legislators to draw new maps by March and hold special elections in the redrawn districts or face contempt of court.

“We want the nation to know that this is not just about bathrooms,” Barber said. “We have in this state an attempt by a few people who are deeply unpopular to run a modern-day, southern, coup d’etat. We are calling on the nation to join us in putting on the pressure.”

The NAACP also plans to file a lawsuit against the state over the newly signed law ensuring Republican dominance of all state and county election boards. NAACP attorneys say the law violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

“We have in this state an attempt by a few people who are deeply unpopular to run a modern-day, southern, coup d’etat.”

North Carolina’s determination to keep HB2 on the books has already cost the Republican governor his seat, racked up hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees, and caused the state to lose out on hundreds of jobs and potentially billions of dollars in economic activity. A host of major corporations — including PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and Google— have canceled planned expansions and investments in the state because of the law, and a host of major sporting events have relocated to other states. As of September, the state has lost an estimated $395 million over the policy.

Barber said a future boycott could take “many different forms” and the exact details will be crafted by his fellow NAACP members, but the overall message will be: “Do not spend your money to further empower people who are undermining the Constitution.”

As they deliberate a boycott, the NAACP is also planning a mass march in Raleigh on February 11, 2017 to call attention to these voting rights infringements.

“We will fight them in the courts. We will fight them in the streets. We will fight them at the ballot box,” Barber said. “Now we’ll ask permission to fight them at the cash register.”