'Moral Monday' protest bolstered by abortion restriction outrage
Posted July 8, 2013
Updated July 11, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Demonstrators, many wearing pink, rallied outside the North Carolina Legislative Building Monday evening in the first 'Moral Monday' protest since the state Senate approved an unexpected bill last week increasing restrictions on abortion providers.
Janet Colm, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, was among 64 protesters who were arrested when the demonstration moved inside the building.
Over the past two months, more than 700 people have been arrested in the weekly protests against the actions of the Republican-led General Assembly. The state chapter of the NAACP is leading the charge against legislation rejecting the expansion of Medicaid to the working poor, slashing benefits to the unemployed, eliminating jobs in public education and placing restrictions on voting.
But it was the recent abortion bill that brought Amy McKee out for the first time Monday.
"I'm very concerned about the laws that are being presented that limit women's rights and access to birth control and abortion," McKee said. "I have daughters. I'm really concerned about their future."
In anticipation for Monday evening's arrests, the Wake County Magistrate's Office more than doubled its staff from three to seven employees – pulling some off other shifts because there is no overtime – something it has done for the past several weeks to help handle the influx of arrests.
Chief Magistrate Dexter Williams said he is now scheduling five to 15 first court appearances every day until November at the Wake County Justice Center. Until now, protesters have made court appearances in groups.
The move is the latest attempt by Wake County law enforcement and justice officials to help ease the strain put on what they say is an already under-budgeted and over-burdened justice system.
Recently, the City-County Bureau of Identification – a county law enforcement agency that books, fingerprints and photographs alleged offenders before they go before the magistrate – stopped fingerprinting and photographing Moral Monday protesters – an action allowed under state law for people arrested for misdemeanors – to help cut costs.
Those arrested are of all ages and come from all walks of life.
Rev. Frederick Battle was last arrested in 1962's historic Woolworth's department store sit-in in Greensboro – a pivotal moment in the U.S. civil rights movement.
"What scares me about today is that I see similarities that we are going back to those days, back to the '60s," Battle said Monday after a hearing in Wake County District Court to allow him and a handful of other protesters banned from legislative grounds to return to the property to meet with Democratic state leaders.
Tyler Swanson, a 19-year-old political science major at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, and Patrick Conway, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, were also arrested during a Moral Monday protest.
"I couldn't sit back and allow this to happen without getting involved," Swanson said.
"The administration, in my mind, has got its economic policies backwards," Conway said.
The three were allowed back onto state legislature grounds for the sole purpose of meeting with lawmakers. Engaging in the protests, however, would be a violation of the court.