Are lawmakers dodging protesters?

Posted June 3, 2014

Lea by the Rev. William Barber, protesters with the "Moral Monday" movement walk around the state Capitol building on June 2, 2014, after being unable to deliver a petition to state Senate leaders at the Legislative Building.

— When the Rev. William Barber and his followers in the "Moral Monday" movement wanted to deliver a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger on Monday, they had to settle for leaving a rolled-up missive wedged in the door handles of the legislative building. 

Lawmakers had finished their work early for the day, and the building was locked when Barber arrived around 5:30 p.m.

"Instead of meeting with us, they're afraid, literally afraid, to look in the eyes of the people whom their policies are hurting," Barber said. 

For years, Monday night sessions have been the norm while the General Assembly is in session. Typically, these meetings have been held around 7 p.m. Last year, they were the backdrop for protesters who entered the courtyard between the two chambers to sing, pray and air their disagreements with the Republican-led legislature. 

This year, protesters have not had the chance to directly confront lawmakers, as Monday evening sessions have been largely pro forma, or not happened at all. Legislative leaders say they aren't doing anything unusual by not spending time on the floor when they don't need to be in session.

Barber doesn't see it that way.  

"We know they have avoided us," he said as he led followers from the doors of the Legislative Building to the historic Capitol. "All of our letters, all of our calls, all of our attempts to sit down and have a real policy discussion have been thwarted."

So far this spring, three Mondays have passed since the legislature has been in session. One was Memorial Day, a traditional day off. On May 19, the House held only a perfunctory skeleton session, during which no business is taken up and only a few lawmakers are on hand. The state Senate conducted no meaningful business, although most members were on the floor for a few minutes.

On Monday, the state House again held a skeleton session, while the Senate did not hold session at all after meeting until midnight hour of Saturday morning. 

"We just needed a break this week," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow. Of rescheduling sessions to avoid protesters said, "That's not accurate at all. We haven't discussed it." 

Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, chuckled when asked why lawmakers were rescheduling work away from Monday nights.

"The speaker is the one that gets to set the schedule," Starnes said, referring to state House Speaker Thom Tillis.

He said that Tillis would have to answer the question about why the House is meeting as it does. 

Of the protesters, Starnes said, "I haven't been here on Mondays, so I don't know if they're here or not."

If protesters are changing the legislative schedule, the change in lawmakers' work flow seems to be impacting the protesters' tactics as well.

The Tuesday after Memorial Day, a group of 15 protesters sat in at Tillis' legislative office until they were removed in the wee hours of the following morning. On Monday, a group of protesters attempted to occupy Gov. Pat McCrory's office at the Capitol. 

As for Tillis, a spokeswoman said the schedule was merely a matter of timing. Also, Tillis was out of town on May 19 for a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign. 

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said the House wants to avoid Monday night session to give lawmakers time to work on their day jobs.

"For those of us who live farther away, we appreciate it," Moore said.

In addition, he said, keeping Monday sessions short give budget writers more time to work. That said, there will be a return to Monday sessions at some point.

"I don't know if it's next week, but we're going to have to start those at some point," he said.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Joseph Shepard Jun 4, 2014
    user avatar

    you folks are willing to cast it aside for partisan reasons? Impressive. I wonder if this is how Hitler's folks started out" JUANBEEBER:: How Hitlers folks started out??? In this nation, that process began when Obama took office, and look at where we are now.

  • randall0123a Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I did want to be heard, which is why I voted for McCrory in the last election.

  • juliomercado Jun 4, 2014

    Those of you supporting the GA's policy of not even engaging in discourse with the electorate do realize that there may well come a time when YOU are personally hurt by bad legislation and YOU will want to be heard. I believe the fist amendment was designed for exactly that and you folks are willing to cast it aside for partisan reasons? Impressive. I wonder if this is how Hitler's folks started out.

  • randall0123a Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    WE THE PEOPLE used this thing called the democratic process to elect an official. McCrory is doing the job WE THE PEOPLE elected him to do. The people you are referring to are just the sore losers. Just take a Valium and cast your vote in the next election. If you don't like the democratic process then you and Barber are in the wrong country.

  • randall0123a Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    NAILED IT!!!

  • Joseph Shepard Jun 4, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    More votes were cast for democratic candidates than republicans, so what majority, exactly, is being represented?

    Read my statement--it says the clear majority of each district elected these legislators--makes no reference to Dem or Rep. They all have a job to do--and these caterwauling, ill mannered protestors with their childish behavior do not have the right to interfere with the performance of their jobs.

  • earthmom1960 Jun 4, 2014

    When our elected representatives refuse to meet with "We, The People" there's bad trouble brewing. Even if you disagree with the Moral Monday protesters, you should not support OUR elected officials disrespecting "We, The People" who they represent.

  • HEELSrocknU Jun 4, 2014

    They should schedule all of their sessions during "rev" Jabba the huts working hours..OH WAIT...He doesn't have a job so that will not work.

  • HEELSrocknU Jun 4, 2014

    They have nothing to say. Don't blame them one bit for not meeting with the bullies. Who are only out for attention, they have NO real issue!!

  • jackaroe123 Jun 4, 2014

    Supporters of this current GA had high praise for how quickly they moved on multiple pieces of legislation last session. You can't very well praise them for acting quickly w/o acknowledging that it came at the expense of thorough discussion and consideration of opposing views. That's why the MM protests started in the first place, and at no point has the GA -- led by the GOP -- stopped and paid attention unless they've been forced to.