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Judge says protesters shouldn't be banned from Legislative Building

Posted July 12

— A Wake County judge plans to draft new pre-trial release conditions for people arrested during a protest at the Legislative Building, saying Wednesday that banning them from the building goes too far.

Thirty-two people, including NAACP president Rev. William Barber, were arrested during the May 30 protest over Republican lawmakers' refusal to expand the Medicaid program as allowed under the Affordable Care Act to provide health coverage for more low-income people.

NAACP attorney Geeta Kapur said during a court hearing for several of the protesters that the state constitution specifically grants people the right to "instruct" legislators. The General Assembly is a public forum where lawmakers work, so protestors can't be banned from it, she said.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Curtis argued that it's common for people charged with trespassing to be banned from the specific property involved until the case is resolved. The state has the power to impose reasonable restrictions on people's rights to avoid disrupting legislative work, she added.

"Where the exercise of someone's First Amendment rights interferes with the public purpose, it is appropriate that the government can step in and set reasonable limitations," Curtis told District Judge Michael Denning. "The state has a significant governmental interest in seeing that the work of its legislative branch may occur and that the individuals employed to work in this building feel safe."

Barber, whose case wasn't on the docket Wednesday, said the protest clearly didn't stop the legislative process.

"All of the things we're against, they still did," Barber said after the court hearing. "So, how can they claim that we disrupt? What we did disrupt is their ability to do it in secret. What we did disrupt is the consciousness of this state, and we exposed to the light what they're doing."

Curtis maintained that the banned protesters could use other means to communicate with lawmakers, such as phone calls or emails. But Barber said the Legislative Building belongs to the people of the state and should be open to all.

"We have the right – non-violently the right – to instruct and bring our grievances to our legislature, and they do not have a right to operate in a public space and attempt to make it their private residence," Barber said.

Denning agreed that banning protestors until further notice is too broad, but he said there will be some restrictions in the modified release conditions he plans to write.

Barber and Kapur said they will probably appeal any new conditions put on the protesters.

Although hundreds of people have been arrested in "Moral Monday" protests over the past several years, the May arrests have been the only ones in 2017.

10 Comments

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  • Scott Wilson Jul 13, 4:38 p.m.
    user avatar

    All they have to do is set up a free buffet outside under a tent, and the "Buffet slayer" and his group will be happy! If any of these people had jobs we would not have to deal with this. Elections matter and you Democrats lost. Deal!

  • Carla Chappell Jul 13, 11:12 a.m.
    user avatar

    There is a right way and wrong way to do everything. Not like they do to get attention. It should and can be peaceful. Not with them. They deserve to be banned and maybe they will learn to act like adults.

  • Michael Bawden Jul 13, 6:36 a.m.
    user avatar

    Pete Knowles

    "Pass legislation with no input from the people". ??

    Voting is the ultimate input from the people. And the people of NC seem to LIKE the decisions of the legislators. The "input" from the people is they keep getting re-elected.

    Liberals dont seem to accept the outcome of elections when they lose. Liberals sue, protest, name call, and claim conservatives should be for ALL the people. Knowing it is impossible to be for ALL the people.

  • David Lewis Jul 13, 1:29 a.m.
    user avatar

    "All of the things we're against, they still did," Barber said...

    Then he was obviously wasting his time when he should have been more concerned with ministering to his flock.

  • Johnny Priest Jul 12, 5:12 p.m.
    user avatar

    Just like anywhere else if a person is arrested and found guilty of trespassing, disorderly conduct, etc then there should be a way to ban them from the building for a period of time. Otherwise they'll just be emboldened to continue their unruly ways.

  • Michael Bawden Jul 12, 5:06 p.m.
    user avatar

    Were they unwilling to leave at closing time. The building is open to public from 8-5pm. The arrests happened around 10:00am. The article states according to capitol police the protestors were DISRUPTING business within two of the offices. Is it not ironic judges and court houses ban protesters from THEIR lobbies and court rooms to ensure the BUSINESS of the courts are not disrupted. Too bad the courts dont allow that courtesy to other government agencies.

  • Clarence Drumgoole Jul 12, 4:18 p.m.
    user avatar

    Blood was shed and some died for the right to protest. So who is dumb?

  • Pete Knowles Jul 12, 2:04 p.m.
    user avatar

    Norman, this building is the people's building and the legislators that occupy it work for us, so get a clue, please. As Reverend Barber said, nothing was disrupted, the heinous legislation was discussed and passed. The only problem that our GA seemed to have was the matter wasn't allowed to be done in secret, behind closed doors. Our GA is really a bunch of scared people when they have to pass legislation with no input from the people, with no discussion on the floor. Their typical 'pass legislation in the middle of the night' operation is cowardly and turns my stomach.

  • Thomas Williams Jul 12, 2:03 p.m.
    user avatar

    Wonder if the judge would mind if they dropped by his office and protested where he was trying to work?

  • Norman Lewis Jul 12, 1:15 p.m.
    user avatar

    Protesting is a right BUT, obstructing the legitimate business of the Legislature is not. Conducting a protest in such a way as to harass and/or interfere intentionally with deliberations is or should be a crime. There is a legal way to comment on pending legislation but the legal way doesn't get as much media attention for the "activists".