Raleigh, N.C. — A growing group of protesters converged on the state legislature Monday, in what some are calling "Mega Moral Monday," to protest the agenda of the Republican-led General Assembly.
It was the fifth and largest demonstration planned by the state chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups to protest GOP policies on social programs, education, criminal justice and taxes.
Police estimated that roughly 1,000 people attended a rally late Monday afternoon behind the Legislative Building on Halifax Mall. Hundreds then entered the building. Activist groups estimated the crowd at about 1,600.
Upwards of 150 people were arrested outside the doors to the state Senate chambers, where demonstrators chanted, sang and delivered speeches decrying what they called a regressive agenda that neglects the poor. All of the protesters were released by 5 a.m. Tuesday.
The NAACP has been holding weekly protests in Raleigh since mid-April, and what started with 17 arrests and tens of supporters back then has grown every week, bringing the total number of arrests to nearly 300 after five weeks of protests.
"The people are awake now, and we have decided to stand up," state NAACP chapter president Rev. William Barber told the crowd Monday. "We are a movement. This is not a moment."
Groups ranging from abortion-rights supporters to environmentalists and public educators have joined the rallies, which have attracted people from Greensboro to Rocky Mount.
Protesters have been seeking to call attention to the rightward shift of the state legislature, which was dominated for decades by moderate Democrats.
"We are keeping our promises to voters, and that is what we are doing," said state Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington. "The Democrats totally bankrupted our state and we were trying to fix it."