In an impressive display of organizational muscle, thousands of supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment marched on the state capital here today, warning they intend to shift tactics to help elect friends and defeat enemies.
Many in the crowd, estimated by police to be more than 8,000, waved placards bearing names of legislators who voted to kill the ERA here two days ago.
Others chanted a slogan about Lt. Gov. James Green, an ERA opponent: "Jimmy Green go away, ERA is here to stay."
The demonstration here and similar ones in the capitals of Florida, Illinois and Oklahoma were part of a last-ditch effort to gain ratification of ERA before its June 30 deadline, an increasingly unlikely prospect.
The crowds in each capital exceeded even the most optimistic projections by ERA forces.
Police said more than 10,000 people marched a mile-long route to the Florida statehouse in Tallahassee. A similar number showed up in Oklahoma City, and a rally in Springfield, Ill., led by Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, former first lady Betty Ford and National Organization for Women President Eleanor Smeal, drew from 6,000 to 8,000 people, according to wire service reports.
The demonstrators here and elsewhere carried colorful placards and most were dressed in white with green sashes, symbolic colors of the suffrage movement.
"It's been a long, long time. It's been a hard battle. This is our last mile. We are one mile from home," said Dr. Janet Canterbury, president of the Dade County (Miami) NOW chapter.
Gov. Robert Graham, who has called a three-day special session of the legislature June 23 to consider ERA, urged Florida marchers to ask the amendment's opponents "to rise above the myths, to rise above the old, tired cliches and face the reality of what this means to the hundreds of thousands of people in this state."
In Oklahoma, ERA countdown director Ruth Adams said, "The ERA will not go away. We feel more strongly now than we did 100 years ago that politics would be much cleaner if women were elected."
In Springfield, the rally began with a religious service honoring seven women who are fasting for the ERA. Raymond Bridge, 38, of Falls Church, Va., visited his wife, faster Mary Ann Beall, who he said "looks like she's much slenderer and a little tired, but in good shape."
However, one of them, Sonia Johnson of Sterling, Va., who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church because of her opposition to the church's anti-ERA stance, had to be helped to the podium.
The North Carolina demonstration was highly political and openly partisan. At times it looked almost like a campaign rally for Gov. James B. Hunt, who wore a symbolic green blazer and ERA button.
Leading the ceremonies was Betty McCain, Hunt's former campaign manager and chief ERA lobbyist. She introduced Hunt as "one of the greatest governors in North Carolina history." And when an airplane flew overhead towing a sign which said, "No ERA for North Carolina. Libbers go home," McCain said, "That's not Ronald Reagan's airplane. His has two right wings."
Leaflets circulated in the crowd urging voters to "Dump Jesse Helms." Hunt, a Democrat and outspoken ERA supporter, plans to run against the Republican senator.
The political remarks are significant because they reflect a growing polarization among ERA supporters and other feminists.
Traditionally bipartisan, these groups are now shifting emphasis to electoral politics this fall and are increasingly aligned with Democratic candidates because, in most cases, they have not gotten support from Republicans.
All 10 Republicans in the North Carolina Senate voted against ERA Friday.
Many women have developed valuable political skills in the long battle for the ERA. Margery Ware, for example, was on one of two buses of ERA supporters who came to the rally from Montgomery County, Md. She said she has worked at phone banks and sending letters for the ERA.
"There is no question that this is the wave of the future," she said as she looked at the thousands of other women on the state capitol lawn. "There's a great deal of power here, political power."
It was largely because of Hunt that ERA supporters had hoped North Carolina would break the logjam that has left the proposed amendment three states short of the 38 needed for ratification since 1977. But that hope was dashed Friday when 27 male senators voted to table the amendment, in effect killing it for the year.
Thus the atmosphere of the rally here was somewhat subdued