Marching against hate: A tale of two NC communities

Hillsborough has become a battleground against bigotry:

Hillsborough gathered together Saturday afternoon as part of the March Against White Supremacy. Hundreds of people participated by walking through downtown. They gathered at the Old Slave Cemetery to get ready to march. Without knowing exactly what to expect a crowd of about 700 began the walk from the Cemetery to the Courthouse.

The rally comes a week after members of the KKK came to the town while Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris was in Durham to speak at an event. Officials in Hillsborough said the KKK's presence wasn't expected and there was no documentation filed to gather and protest. People from all walks of life came together to show solidarity.

Several people I know were involved in this march, and it has to have been one of the largest gatherings downtown Hillsborough has ever seen. My Facebook feed was inundated with updates and photos of the march, but then I noticed something else happening. Some of my friends are also in Eastern North Carolina, and in Greenville there was another march taking place in defense of The Squad:

"God made the nations and tribes of the Earth different so that we may know each other, not despise one another," Shafeah M'Balia, quoting from the Quran, told the group after they made the mile-long walk to the courthouse.

A Savannah, Ga., resident who moved there from Rocky Mount in 2015, M'Balia criticized the U.S. government for "vile, vicious" policies and attacks on women and people of color and the unleashing of racist groups such as The Proud Boys and the Ku Klux Klan. She encouraged the group to continue speaking out when they saw injustice.

"We stand together for a world and a system that meets the human rights and needs of all people for health care, for safety, education, income and more. That is why we came out today (to stand) with The Squad."

Women leaders of groups including the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism and Black Workers for Justice based in Rocky Mount organized the march. It also recognized the 64th anniversary of the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in August 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman.

The Squad is attacked not simply because they are part of the Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump, said Rukiya Dillahunt of Charlotte. They are attacked because they are women of color, because two are Muslims who support Palestine and oppose Israeli occupation of the West Bank, because they support the Green New Deal to address climate change and because the support Medicare for all, she said.

No doubt the right-wing nutters will rail against "outside agitators" coming to Greenville to stir up trouble. But I guarantee you many of the MAGA idiots that attended Trump's "send her back" rally came from all over the place, including other states. Reporters could do much worse than taking a quick walk through the parking lot and jotting down how many out-of-state plates they see. I did that several years ago at an "open carry" rally in Greensboro, and over half the attendees came from other states, including a few from Texas.

Why is that important? Because we tend to tar these communities with the same brush used on the crowds that gather, and that can be misleading.