North Carolina’s NAACP president is calling for an economic boycott of his state

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Rev. William Barber addresses the media during a press conference September 22, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The leader of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter announced on Thursday he will call on the national civil rights organization to start an economic boycott of his state in protest of what he calls the state’s “constitutional overreach.”

Rev. William Barber, the chapter’s president and a local civil-rights leader, said the chapter will draft a letter later this month asking for the boycott.

The proposed boycott is a protest against recent actions of North Carolina’s state legislature, including its failure to repeal the polarizing “bathroom law” that critics say discriminates against LGBT residents.

Lawmakers convened for nine hours on Wednesday to erase House Bill 2, which restricts local governments’ ability to protect against LGBT discrimination and dictates which restrooms transgender residents can use. But they came up empty-handed after they couldn’t agree on how far to scale it back.

Barber said his proposed boycott would last until three goals are accomplished – the repeal of HB2, a “fair and constitutional” redistricting of North Carolina’s electoral map, and the undoing of key Republican laws passed last week to limit the power of incoming governor Roy Cooper.

“This legislature is trying to raise a new Confederacy in policy,” Barber said at a press conference Thursday. “This group doesn’t respect the Constitution. They do not respect the voices of the people. They do not respect the will of the people.”

Last week, Republican lawmakers in the state surprised Democrats with a last-minute special session in which they pushed through several laws stripping Cooper – a Democrat – of some of his executive authority.

One provision mandates that state elections boards, and their county-level subsidiaries, must have an even partisan makeup, instead of a majority belonging to the governor’s party. It also ensures that a Republican will chair each board in election years, while Democrats are restricted to off-years.

Barber called the surprise measures “deep violations of the Democratic process” last week, and helped organize protests at the legislative building that led to more than 50 arrests in two days.

“They’re cheating to hold onto power,” Barber said at the press conference on Thursday. “Enough is enough.”

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Museum manager Jeff Bell adheres informative backing to gender neutral signs in the 21C Museum Hotel public restrooms on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.
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Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Barber is one of the most prominent opponents of North Carolina’s Republican leadership. Since 2013, after a redistricted electoral map swung the government’s balance firmly to the right, Barber has organized weekly “Moral Monday” protests, in which hundreds of demonstrators march to North Carolina’s state legislative building, often resulting in arrests and attracting national attention.

He has also been one of HB2’s leading critics, which he has called “an anti-worker, anti-civil rights, anti-LGBT” bill.

Since the bill’s passage in March, businesses such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank have called off major expansions in the state, entertainers including Bruce Springsteen and Maroon 5 canceled concerts, and the NBA, NCAA and ACC all relocated major sporting events slated to be played there.

The bill has cost the Tar Heel State an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars. Barber’s boycott would add to that total.

“It puts another form of pressure on our leaders and our leadership to do right,” he said.