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Americans face ‘full-on’ attack on freedoms, liberties, VP Harris says in Boston

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The United States is facing a “full-on attempt to attack” freedoms and liberties for Black Americans and other groups, Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday as she addressed hundreds of people in Boston.

From recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings to state laws curbing voting or transgender rights, Harris and other speakers at the opening session of the NAACP’s 114th National Convention painted a grim picture of the country ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“We are in a moment where there is a full-on attempt to attack hard-fought and hard-won rights and freedoms and liberty,” Harris said. “We know every day we must be vigilant in protecting that which we have achieved and keeping our eyes on our vision, our collective vision of how we continue to strengthen our nation.”

Harris spoke at the convention in a moderated discussion with Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell. The vice president was in the middle of a “whirlwind” tour across the country with stops in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Orlando, according to the White House.

Harris commended NAACP leaders for helping people vote in the 2020 election, where citizens took to the polls as a virus rapidly spread. She said the NAACP helped mobilize “hundreds of thousands” of voters through organizing and activism.

The mobilization “scared” some people, Harris said.

“It is by no coincidence that immediately thereafter you started seeing the extremist so-called leaders passing laws restricting voting days and making it more difficult to vote, banning drop boxes, shortening the amount of time people could vote ahead of the election,” she said.

Harris also called for a renewal of an assault weapons ban, saying there is “no place” for those types of firearms in the U.S.

“We need to have universal background checks,” Harris said as she called for “reasonable” gun safety laws. “It’s reasonable to say that we might want to know if somebody is, been found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others before they buy a lethal weapon. It’s just reasonable.”

NAACP officials, local Boston leaders, and federal politicians who spoke before Harris described a country grappling with radical groups looking to strike down diversity and restrict freedoms.

“Make no mistake, we are in danger of a new Jim Crow era in some parts of this country,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “Now, to the greatest extent since the last century, we’re seeing racist attitudes and policies being embedded in our laws and institutions, often with a thin veil of so-called race blindness.”

It was the sixth time the NAACP Convention took place in Boston, and organization officials used this year to criticize the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade and striking down affirmative action, casting the latter opinion as a direct attack on diversity in higher education.

Tanisha Sullivan, the president of the NAACP Boston Branch, said the national convention coming to town is an opportunity for the city to “reintroduce ourselves” to Black America, to the nation’s history, and understand the challenges residents still face.

And threats to progress in the city and country are both “internal and external,” the former candidates for Massachusetts secretary of state said.

“This is not a time for complacency or fear. These times continue to require bold vision and action to fight back,” Sullivan said.

Harris also piled onto the Supreme Court, chastising justice for taking away the federal right to an abortion.

“The highest court in our land, the court of Thurgood, just took a Constitutional right from the women of America,” she said. “A right that had been recognized. And on this point, I think it’s so important to acknowledge and agree, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply-held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body.”

In the 41 years since the NAACP national convention was last in Boston, a lot has changed in the city, Mayor Michelle Wu said. City leaders are addressing the disparate impacts of climate change, have launched a reparations task force, and are focusing on community safety.

“At a time when increasingly radical people and elements in our country, that include some legislators and even justices, attempt to divide and destroy our democracy by rolling back the clock, stripping away our rights to vote, love freely, and learn from the truths of our country’s history, in Boston, we refuse to be distracted” Wu said.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley said people in 2023 are looking to weaponize what it means to be “woke” and took a moment to recall Dr. Martin Luther King’s final Sunday sermon in 1968 when he told people to “remain awake through a great revolution.”

“They want to lull us into a permanent sleep state with their draconian policies, violence, and their scarcity budgets,” she said. “NAACP, stay Black, stay woke, and remain vigilant.”

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley addresses attendees during the NAACP Convention. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley addresses attendees during the NAACP Convention. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

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