About 250-300 people were in Bridge Park Tuesday night for so-called Moral Monday.   Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP and driving force behind Moral Mondays, was the keynote speaker.

Moral Monday protests have been occurring in the state’s capital for the last three years, organizers say, as a way for people to have their voices heard in Raleigh. From those protests, Rev. Barber brought his message to the state’s westernmost counties which resulted in a Mountain  Moral Monday being held in Sylva this week. Local NAACP branches, churches, and other coalition partners put on the event, which say upwards of 300 people attended.

The Moral Monday protests push a “Forward Together” movement that while has been lead by NAACP leaders in the state, extends beyond race. The NAACP, as well as the Moral Monday protests, have been about advocating for policies that are for the greater good of society as a whole and against policies that suppress people.

Franklin High School teacher and NCAE member John deVille spoke to the crowd about the continued effects cuts from the state have locally on public educational funding.

“Legislators say throwing money at education doesn’t solve anything, but they sure don’t have a problem throwing money at their donors,” he said. “… children aren’t potential revenue streams.”

Franklin resident Selma Sparks, 85, spoke about how challenging it is for her to watch her state taxes increase year after year because she is on a fixed income and has no way to account for the increases. Although her Social Security and pension benefits have remained flat, her taxes been increased from $47 in 2013 to $232 in 2015.

“I almost passed out when I saw what I owed because it wasn’t in the budget,” she said. “I didn’t have it so now I’m paying it off in pieces with interest.”

Moral Monday issues include voting rights, environmental issues, cuts to social programs, tax changes, racial justice acts, abortion, and access to public education.