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As lawmakers made their final decisions inside the House and Senate chambers, hundreds of protesters gathered just outside the Capitol to voice their displeasure with the 2016 Legislative Session.
The protestors’ rallying cry, “Remember In November,” was a call to action for voters to express their outrage with lawmakers at the polls in the coming election.
At issue with the group was the passage a number of pieces of legislation that organizers said attempt to silence West Virginians in favor of special interest groups. These include the passage of Right-to-Work, the repeal of prevailing wage, and the passage of a bill requiring the drug testing of welfare recipients. Protestors also denounced the legislature for their consideration of the Religious Freedom Protection Act, which they said simply gave license to discriminate.
Joe Solomon, who works at Taylor Books in Charleston, organized the rally.
“I saw so many people coming in the shop with looks of despair and depression on their face,” Solomon said, “You see every day in the paper another op-ed or another article that’s crushing the soul of the state and discriminating against another group of people. And I thought, ‘This thing is isn’t going to end on a whimper, is it?’”
Solomon said he expressed his concern on Facebook, which quickly gained support from various groups. Speakers at the rally included members of the NAACP, Fairness West Virginia and the Appalachian Workers’ Alliance, among others.
“I think the peoples’ message is pretty clear. They’re saying, ‘Look, we might have our difference but we’re all united because we’re being silenced, and everything we could possibly dream of for our causes are being trampled on. We’ve got to come together, build power together, and build enough people power to drive home a true peoples’ agenda.’”
Sabrina Shrader, a resident of Mercer County, has filed in the November elections to run for the House seat for the 27th District. Shrader said she saw number issues that influenced her decision to run.
“I grew up in McDowell county, grew up in a generation of poverty,” Shrader said. “For most of my life I felt like I didn’t matter. I few years ago I started to get involved in the political process, and saw that it was working wrong for the people. I want to run to speak for the peoples’ issues.”
At the rally ended with members of the crowd pledging to register to vote, register their friends and encourage others to get the polls.