Published Online: July 20, 2010

1K N.C. Protesters March Over School Busing Decision

About 1,000 protesters marched Tuesday through North Carolina's capital and prepared for an afternoon showdown with a school board they say will resegregate schools by eliminating a busing policy focused on diversity.

Led by the NAACP, the angry demonstrators held signs that recalled images of the 1960s as they got ready for a Wake County school board meeting. The head of the state NAACP, the Rev. William Barber, said he'll show up even though he has been banned from attending. He and three others — dubbed the "Raleigh 4" — were arrested there last month.

At the steps of the state Capitol, 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," he said. "Too many lives were sacrificed. Too much blood was shed. Too many tears were shed. We can't turn back now."

He called on the crowd to join him at the school board session. Eight off-duty police officers have been hired following the contentious June meeting.

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.

Opponents 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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