Raleigh, N.C. — Saying Progress North Carolina's planned "garden party" was less about finger sandwiches than giving the finger to state government, Gov. Pat McCrory's administration has canceled the liberal group's contract to host a Wednesday evening event at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.
"It became clear this afternoon that Progress NC had reserved the Executive Mansion for a coordinated political protest instead of the event it has discussed with staff and agreed upon in its contract," McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson said in a news release.
Progress NC is a liberal advocacy group that has been critical of the Republican-led administration's policies, including decisions not to expand Medicaid and the governor's support for House Bill 2, the measure dealing with LGBT rights.
Wilson cited social media postings that showed the group would bring along its "Air Horn Orchestra," a group of individuals who use air horns and other noisemaking devices, including a tuba, to register their displeasure with McCrory.
"These publicly announced plans were in violation of the agreed upon contract, therefore the permit to use the mansion has been canceled," Wilson said, pointing to a copy of the contract, which prohibits "political campaign events."
The contract also says, "The Office of the Governor reserves the right to cancel any event at any time."
On its Facebook page, Progress NC announced the cancelation of the contract and called for supporters to gather outside the mansion. More than 250 people had RSVP'd for the event, according to a document cited by the Governor's Office.
"Does that mean we're calling it quits and staying home this evening? Hell no!" the group posted. "Join us across the street from the Governor's Mansion at 6pm TONIGHT for a very special Air Horn Orchestra performance. If you planned to attend our Garden Party Against Hate, you're still welcome to dress up."
The state rents the governor's residence to a number of groups. In a recent news release, Progress NC cited a WRAL News report that a Jesse Helms alumni group held a function there recently.
"Gov. McCrory’s staff explained how the Jesse Helms Center could rent the Executive Mansion by claiming all nonprofits could do the same," Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC, said after his group's cancelation. "That is now clearly shown to be false. Progress NC did not violate a rental contract. The Governor’s Office canceled our ‘Garden Party Against Hate' because they don’t like the groups involved or the message they share. Period."
Before the cancelation, Progress NC issued a news release describing the event and inviting the governor.
"We’re grateful to Gov. McCrory for letting us hold our Garden Party Against Hate at his house, and we’d like to return the favor by personally inviting him to attend," Brenner said at the time. "Much of North Carolina’s LGBT community feels that Gov. McCrory has completely ignored their concerns, so this would be an excellent opportunity for the governor to have an honest conversation about how HB2 puts LGBT North Carolinians at risk and is bad for the entire state."