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More protests, more arrests at legislature

Posted December 16, 2016

— For the second straight day, protests disrupted lawmakers and led to arrests at the General Assembly on Friday.

Thirty-nine people were arrested Friday on charges of trespassing and violating Legislative Building rules, including a man dressed as Santa Claus and a woman who was breastfeeding a child.

Seventeen people were arrested on those charges Thursday. Both days, one person was charged with resisting an officer.

The House had to suspend debate on a bill combining the State Board of Elections and the Ethics Commission and that would make Supreme Court elections partisan affairs for about five minutes as police cleared the public gallery in the chamber.

As protesters shouted "All political power comes from the people," police led a couple of people out with zip-ties on their wrists.

Lawmakers then complained as the loud protests continued outside the chamber.

The crowds then went over into the Senate, where they began coughing, sneezing and humming loudly. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest finally ordered that gallery cleared when the crowd became too disruptive.

With both galleries locked shut, the crowds banged on the glass doors, chanting "Let us in. Let us in."

General Assembly police ordered people at about 3:30 p.m. to leave the building or risk arrest. A couple small groups of people then staged quiet sit-ins and were hauled off after officers gave each person one final chance to leave and avoid arrest.

"They say we are disrupting the legislature, and they are actually disrupting our democracy," said Kristen Kowzen, who refused to leave. "I don’t think that is OK, and I don’t want to be moved from that."

"Is this really the people's house when the people are getting locked out?" asked protester Melissa Price Kromm.

Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, chided his House colleagues for criticizing the protesters, saying they were simply exercising their constitutional rights.

"Yes, it's loud out there. I can still hear you. I known you can still hear me. They can hear all of us," Sgro said. "We should be a little more respectful of our constituents, whether they agree with us or not, when engaging in civil disobedience."

Sgro's comments irked House Speaker Tim Moore. Disagreements are part of the political process, but disruptions cross the line, he said.

"There's a difference between coming and making your voice heard ... and engaging in conduct actively designed with the clear purpose of doing nothing but interfering with the deliberations and the actions of the legislature," said Moore, R-Cleveland. "The voters of this state sent us here to do a job, and that's what we are trying to do, despite the interference of some who are violating the law."

Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president, said the protesters were trying to get the message across to lawmakers that the results of the November election, when Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, should be respected.

"This whole shenanigan is unconstitutional and out of order," Barber said of the special session two weeks before the end of some lawmakers' terms. "What they are passing in there, we believe is invalid."

As Barber spoke, protesters chanted "Shame. Shame. Shame."

29 Comments

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  • Larry Price Dec 19, 2016
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    I'd take it a step further than that. Why was it raised from 450 when Purdue was there to 1500 when McCrory was elected? A Democrat wins, and amazingly the 450 figure makes sense again...

  • Judy Loftin Dec 17, 2016
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    They will regret voting for Cooper. He is another Purdue.

  • Ken Ackerman Dec 16, 2016
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    Republicans like to scream to other countries about what a great democratic government we have. Meanwhile, they are doing their absolute best at the national and state levels to a complete farce. 51% are in control, the other 49% might as well bend over and grab their ankles.

  • Debra Blackmon Dec 16, 2016
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    Link to NCGA
    http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/applications/billswithaction/?biennium=2015E4

  • Debra Blackmon Dec 16, 2016
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    If 300 was too many, then why not vote to reduce it during regular session while McCrory was still in office? If it wasn't too many for him to have (in the eyes of the NCGA) in July, then its not too many for the next governor to have come January. What it really boils down to is that the republicans in the NCGA are scared of what a democratic governor might do with the very generous allocations give to McCrory during his time in office. I would be willing to bet money that if a different Republican were the governor-elect (vs a democrat) that these changes would NOT have been proposed. That means that the republicans are the sore losers. Suck it up buttercups.

  • Debra Blackmon Dec 16, 2016
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    It has been implied and flat out said that what the GA is doing has been done by Democratic Governors (in the past) leaving office to a republican Governor-Elect.

    I have gone to the NCGA website and looked at the sessions just before the last 2 democratic governors have left office. Guess what?!? No special "after election" sessions held to hamstring the governor elect!!! So I ask Republicans (and those supporting what the NCGA is doing) to show proof where past NCGA has hamstringed a republican-elect Governor? Please. I beg you. Because if you can't show facts to support your argument that 'democrats did it first and worse', then you have no argument and no leg to stand on.

  • Ray Rivera Dec 16, 2016
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    Not to worry, the electoral college is set to confirm, or not, Donald Trump. That is something we need to keep a close eye on!!!

  • Bernard Grace Dec 16, 2016
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    The producers in society need to remain vigilant and strong. Just because we won, does not mean, those who are the blight on society will not keep "protesting," (throwing tantrums like children), and spreading hate and lies with the goal of demeaning and hurting the American way. Your would think the election would have been a teachable moment for the media, but so far they have failed to realize the meaning of he outcome. It is our responsibility to hold those elected responsible, and have them to enact the voted for agenda.

  • Vince DiSena Dec 16, 2016
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    Democratics think they are royalty when actually they are dirt on the porch that needs to be swept away.

  • Nicolle Leney Dec 16, 2016
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    Except that those 1300 people McCrory appointed--however qualified or not qualified--are going to STAY in those positions. They've added text that changes these current positions from exempt positions to regular non-exempt positions.

    And that nice new bipartisan Elections commission? They wrote in a law that so that the parties take turns for who is in charge. Seems fair... But they've made sure (unless a multitude more people suddenly register as Republicans) that THEIR PARTY will be in charge EVERY EVEN year, which just happen to be the years of the major elections.

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