Raleigh, N.C. — State NAACP President Rev. William Barber and four other people cannot go to the state legislature until their trespassing cases from a recent protest there are resolved, a Wake County judge ordered Thursday.
Four other protesters can visit the Legislative Building only if invited by a lawmaker and must be accompanied by the lawmaker while there, District Judge Michael Denning ruled.
The nine are among 32 people arrested during a 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.
They appealed the legality of their pre-trial release conditions, contending every North Carolina resident has a constitutional right to visit the Legislative Building to "instruct" their lawmakers.
Prosecutors argued during a Wednesday court hearing that it's common for people charged with trespassing to be banned from the specific property involved until the case is resolved.
Denning agreed that a blanket ban was too broad, and he tailored the prohibitions based on how many times each person has been charged with trespassing at the Legislative Building.
There was no word on any changes to the pre-trial release conditions for the other 23 protesters.
Barber said he is appealing the revised release conditions as unconstitutional.
He was arrested Thursday in Washington, D.C., where he was taking part in a protest against the U.S. Senate's health care proposal, and noted that he simply paid a fine and was released. He said protesters aren't banned from Capitol Hill, nor do other states ban them from legislative complexes.
"We can’t allow the legislature or this judge to engage in this kind of mischaracterization and start limiting people’s constitutional rights," Barber said. "If you have been arrested before, we’re going to say you can’t go back until your case is adjudicated? That’s not going to stand up in court if we’ve got to take it all the way to the Supreme Court."