Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County District Court judge on Friday dismissed charges against a husband and wife arrested in May during one of the weekly protests at the state Legislative Building.
Vicki and Douglas Ryder were among more than 900 people arrested during the so-called "Moral Monday" demonstrations against the legislative agenda of the Republican-controlled General Assembly. The protesters said lawmakers were hurting the poor, the unemployed, students and other groups through their actions.
"We have shown that we can express our concerns and not be arrested for doing that," Vicki Ryder said after the daylong trial.
Protesters would usually gather at a nearby church and march to the Legislative Building, where they would sing and chant and sometimes refuse to leave when asked by the General Assembly Police. Those arrested were charged with trespassing, failure to disperse and violating Legislative Building rules.
Charges against some protesters were dropped after they agreed to perform community service under a deal offered by Wake County prosecutors to clear cases from the clogged court dockets. The Ryders are the first to take their cases to trial and win.
A week ago, the first Moral Monday case that was tried ended in a conviction. Saladin Muhammad was ordered to pay a $100 fine, but he has appealed the conviction.
"I can't account for the vicissitudes of the court. I just hope that, for future cases, charges will be dismissed," Vicki Ryder said.
The Ryders and Muammad were arrested on different days, and an attorney for one of the protesters awaiting trial said that may have played a role in Judge Joy Hamilton issuing different rulings.
About 30 other protesters were in court Friday awaiting their trials, but because the Ryders' case took all day, those trials were rescheduled for Oct. 28.
"I've had to come three times so far, and it's four hours each way," protester Leslie Boyd said. "It's exhausting, and I'd like to know what the outcome is going to be."
Still, Boyd and other protesters said they will stick it out to make their voices heard.
"Civil disobedience is an important part of democracy," protester Tara Bloomquist said.