Students target Pope's stores to protest his 'poisonous agenda'

A group of Raleigh, N.C. students is launching a picket of Maxway, one of the retail stores owned by Republican donor Art Pope. The grassroots group aims to bring attention to what they call Pope's "poisonous agenda," including attacks on public schools.

The group, NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens) picketed the same Maxway nearly a year ago, and lists a host of reasons for targeting Pope and his store again, starting with his role as "architect of the plan to re-segregate Wake County Public Schools." Other issues include Pope's role in opposing environmental standards and his push for privatization of the public sector.

Maxway, along with Roses, is one of the biggest brands in the Variety Wholesalers retail chain, where Pope is CEO and President. According to the company's website, Variety targets neighborhoods with at least 25% African-American population and a median household income of $40,000 or less annually.

NC HEAT aims to exploit a key weakness in Pope's network: the disconnect between Pope's black and low-income consumer base, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic and opposes measures like cuts to public schools, and the political agenda Pope's money funds.

Over the last decade, the Popes have pumped $40 million into exerting political influence. In 2010, three groups backed by Pope -- Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action and Real Jobs NC -- accounted for 75% of the outside money that flooded into state legislative elections, fueling the GOP takeover of the General Assembly.

Pope's groups appear unrepentant about their leadership in the Wake County school battles. In March 2012, the Civitas Institute -- which receives more than 95% of their income from Pope's foundation -- is hosting a Conservative Leadership Conference, whose speakers include an advocate of states seceeding from the union. The conference will present a Courage in Leadership Award to Ron Margiotta, the former Wake County school board chairman who led efforts to dismantle the system's diversity policy before being voted out of office in 2011.

What does NC HEAT hope to accomplish with the picket, which will start at noon on Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Maxway on Poole Road in Raleigh? To raise awareness about Pope and his agenda, and "to hit Pope where he can feel it -- in his wallet."

PHOTO: Members of NC HEAT picketing a Maxway store in Raleigh in March 2011. Courtesy of The Independent Weekly.