NC NAACP head upset over what he calls school ‘resegregation’ policy arrested again

By Mike Baker, AP
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NC NAACP head arrested before school board meeting

RALEIGH, N.C. — The head of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter was arrested Tuesday as advocates prepared to confront a county school board that voted to eliminate a busing policy focused on diversity.

The Rev. William Barber, who was banned from the gathering after a trespassing arrest at a board meeting last month, was again taken into custody along with others at the Wake County Schools administration building in Raleigh.

The NAACP led a rally earlier Tuesday with about 1,000 protesters marching through North Carolina’s capital. Barber encouraged the crowd to attend the meeting, where Raleigh police set up a mobile command center with roughly two dozen officers.

Barber prayed with supporters before police stopped him from approaching the building. He said shortly before his arrest that he was coming peacefully to give a letter to the school board chairman.

“We know that our cause is right,” he said.

The Wake County School Board has voted multiple times over the last several months to scrap the district’s diversity policy, which distributed students based on socioeconomics and for years had been a model for other districts looking to balance diversity in schools. Several school board members elected last year have built a majority in favor of focusing on neighborhood schools.

The board’s chairman, Ron Margiotta, said the panel would not be distracted in its effort to “provide choice and increased stability for families.”

“This board does not intend to create high poverty or low-performing schools,” he said to scoffs from the crowd.

At the morning rally, speakers quoted Martin Luther King Jr., remembered the days of segregated water fountains and likened the current situation to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education battle. Barber talked about America’s legacy of racial strife to galvanize the crowd.

“Too many prayers were prayed,” Barber said. “Too many lives were sacrificed. Too much blood was shed. Too many tears were shed. We can’t turn back now.”

Barber and three others have been dubbed the “Raleigh 4″ after their arrests last month.

His supporters believe the new policy will resegregate schools. They carried signs that read: “Segregate equals hate” and “History is not a mystery. Separate is always unequal.”

George Ramsay, a white former student body president of Enloe High School, said it was necessary to keep the diversity policy in place to prepare students for an increasingly connected world.

“It is shortsighted to ignore the way students like me have been enriched by diversity,” Ramsay said.

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