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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Marchers take to street in support of "The Squad"

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Shafeah M'Balia addresses participants during a rally at the Pitt County Courthouse on Saturday in support of the four U.S. congresswomen known as "The Squad."

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Bobby Burns
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 31, 2019

About 100 people marched through Greenville on Saturday in support of four U.S. congresswomen known as “The Squad.”

The march and subsequent rally at the Pitt County Courthouse featured women of color and faith who railed at criticism against the congresswomen and racial and social injustice they said is prevalent in eastern North Carolina and across the country.

Additionally, they rallied for universal health care, in support of immigrants, for measures to address global warming and other positions supported by Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

"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.

"Because they are black and brown, because they are progressive and advocating for the people on many front lines, they have become targets, and it is our duty to stand with them and support their progressive agenda," Dillahunt said. "Let's get busy ... and defeat the white supremest, capitalist agenda whether in the White House or in the state house on Jones Street."

The march was prompted in part by Trump's July 17 visit in Greenville, organizers said, where he singled out Omar, a naturalized American citizen born in Somalia, on several fronts including "anti-semitic screeds."

Trump's remarks prompted many in the 8,000-person audience at East Carolina University's Minges Coliseum to begin chanting "Send her back," which continues to place Greenville in national coverage about race and the Trump presidency.

On Saturday, as the ECU Pirates kicked off the first football matchup of the season at N.C. State in Raleigh and many in Greenville were focused on the game, marchers gathered at Thomas Foreman park in the predominantly black west side of town and started marching up Fifth Street about 12:40 p.m.

The group answered "Send her back" with chants like "We don't want your stupid wall, we want Medicare for all" as it made its way slowly into the increasingly upscale Uptown District, where restaurants and bars catered to afternoon Pirate fans.

Many on the street grabbed their phones and began photographing and recording the unexpected march, some hurried away and a few joined in on the chants, but the event was entirely peaceful with a single Greenville Police Department escort.

The officer stood in front of his vehicle as the group demonstrated at the courthouse — several speakers lashed out at the police.

Beatris Rosas of Bailey told the group that lawmen killed her cousin in Nash County on Feb. 9 in a family enclave known as Little Mexico.

Nash County Sheriff's Office deputies shot and killed Jonathan Ramirez, 28, early that morning after a woman reported that Ramirez had sexually assaulted her, according to official reports. She said he had drugs and an AK-47 in his vehicle.

The deputies confronted Ramirez as he left his vehicle. Ramirez is said to have pulled a long-barrel firearm from his backseat. It remains unclear what type of rifle he actually possessed.

An autopsy showed a cocktail of illicit and over-the-counter drugs in his system. The three deputies involved were cleared of any wrongdoing in May.

"During this incident, those same racist white officers shot into my home six times, and even though I didn't lose my life physically, I died that morning, too," said Rosas, who said her family owns the property and has farmed and worked in the area for years.

The officers could not understand the pain they inflicted, she said. "They could not understand that we too believe in God, that we too pray to God. Why? Because to them we are not human. ...

"They say we are murderers, they say we are rapists, they say we are violent people from drug-infested countries. My response ... when you tell us to go back, please remember where you came from. ...

"We colored people have paid our dues to these United States both in currency and in our own blood, literally in our own blood ... let's stand together and, like the Jews, say never again."

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329-9572.

Speech by Beatris Rosas.

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