'Moral Monday' protesters cited, released for sit-in at McCrory's office
Posted June 2, 2014
Updated June 3, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — About 30 “Moral Monday” protesters slowly made their way inside the Capitol building Monday afternoon, singing a rendition of “We Shall Not Be Moved,” to deliver a letter asking Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders to repeal a number of “harmful policies.”
And most of them didn’t leave. At least not right away.
“We cannot, in good faith, leave this space until Governor McCrory repeals these laws,” one protester said.
At 5:07 p.m., a State Capitol Police officer told the group to leave after announcing that the building was closed. About two hours later, the 11 protesters who remained were taken into custody, cited for trespassing and released.
As they left, dozens attending the Moral Monday rally outside the legislative building walked to the Capitol and embraced them with chants and songs.
"I stand here today for those who could not be here to say Governor McCrory, stop it," said Serena Sebring, a N.C. State University sociology professor who was among those cited.
Prior to their arrests, the group sat and stood in the building’s rotunda, reading statements asking McCrory to veto and repeal legislation related to fracking, coal ash and the denial of Medicaid funds. One held “coal ash cupcakes” in a plastic container. Others held signs that read “Repent, Repeal, Restore.”
Lawmakers last week approved a fast-tracked bill allowing for fracking in North Carolina, a measure McCrory said he supports. In March, McCrory signed a bill prohibiting Medicaid expansion or state involvement in health exchanges. McCrory has also been criticized for not taking tougher action regarding a February spill at a Duke Energy power plant that sent an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
Monday’s sit-in comes one week after 14 people were arrested after a nearly 11-hour sit-in at House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office last Tuesday. Dubbed the “Tillis 15,” the group refused multiple requests by police to leave, and all but one were arrested at about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday. Each was charged with second-degree trespassing and violation of building rules.
The letters, separately addressed to McCory, Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, asked legislative leaders to repeal a number of “extremist policies,” including the state’s denial of federal Medicaid funds, cutting unemployment benefits, the approval of fracking and the repeal of the Racial Justice Act.
Protesters attempted to deliver letters to Tillis' and Berger's offices but the legislative building was closed.
Tillis and Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam could not be reached for comment.
“We recognize that reversing these actions will not solve every problem that our state faces,” the letter to McCrory said. “We ask that you reverse course because your actions have made challenging situations even more painful for so many. We call on you today to reverse course by repenting, repealing and restoring our state to higher ground by eliminating the laws and policies pushed by this N.C. Legislature, led by Speaker Tillis and Senate Leader Berger and signed by you.”
Monday's sit-in followed a press conference where state NAACP President William Barber promised more action regarding Moral Monday efforts. He described legislative action related to fracking, coal ash and Medicaid as "matters of life and death."
“There will be increased activity because we are not going anywhere,” he said. “If they don’t change, we hope they will, but we will make sure that everyone in the state and this country knows the extremism they’re engaged in. When they go to the polls in their communities, they will be totally informed of the wrong direction we must correct.