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Protests, arrests resume at legislature

Posted April 29, 2015
Updated April 30, 2015

— Demonstrators on Wednesday kicked off their third year of protests – and arrests – at the General Assembly.

"We're back," Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president, said at a news conference before he and a few dozen clergy members marched from Davie Street Presbyterian Church to the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh.

“We have come back – not as a fad, not as a farce – but we have come back because we have a moral responsibility to do justice, love mercy, work humbly before God and fight for the soul of this state,” Barber said.

Once at the legislature, about a dozen protesters were arrested by the General Assembly Police as they blocked the doors to the Senate chamber and loudly made their presence known through singing and chanting. The Senate paused its session for about 20 minutes during the disruption.

Late Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of protesters rallied on Bicentennial Mall, across the street from the Legislative Building, and more arrests followed as participants again marched into the building.

"I will continue to come back and resist, resist and resist," said T. Anthony Spearman, who also was among the first people arrested in a legislative protest two years ago.

On April 29, 2013, the first of the weekly protests that came to be known as the "Moral Monday" movement was held at the legislature, resulting in several arrests. Over the course of the summer, the demonstrations against the agenda of the Republican-led legislature grew in size, and more than 900 people faced trespassing and other charges by the end of the legislative session.

More protests were held last year, but they resulted in far fewer arrests after state judges started throwing out the charges because the rules for public access to the Legislative Building were too vague and because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding protester arrests in a Massachusetts case.

Legislative Building officials have since enacted new access rules, allowing the General Assembly Police to designate specific areas of the courtyard rotunda area for specific uses.

To mark the two-year anniversary of the protest movement, clergy members displayed signs that read "Expand Medicaid Now, "Support Public Education," "Stop Attacks on Women's Rights" and "Workers Deserve a Living Wage" as they marched to the Legislative Building.

The group wants lawmakers to pay more attention to voting rights, Medicaid, public education, job development and the criminal justice system than to issues such as expanding gun rights.

"They have put us on a path of social catastraphy and greed," Barber said of lawmakers. "Denying people worker's rights is violence. Undermining health care is violence. Undermining opportunities for public education is violence. We believe these policies are a form of political violence."

Organizers said the protests would shift to Wednesdays at the legislature in the coming weeks – May 13 and May 27 – and groups plan to target the districts of lawmakers in coming Mondays. They first plan to hit Lee and Chatham counties, followed by the Charlotte area.

On July 6, a planned demonstration in Winston-Salem would coincide with the start of a federal trial over changes to North Carolina's elections laws, they said.

The North Carolina Republican Party called the protests "political theater" and that demonstrators are pushing a "radical agenda."

"These are more political stunts organized to get media attention," GOP spokesman Ricky Diaz said. "That is the kind of agenda that would break the bank and stop the economic turnaround in North Carolina."

17 Comments

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  • Gary Hutson Apr 30, 2015
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    They have the first Amendment and I'm all for it but what is the purpose of repeating the same thing over and over again once they have made their grievances know to everyone.

  • Scott Mace Apr 30, 2015
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    They do. The problem is, since the GA is not responding to them, they've decided to adopt tactics that aren't designed to make themselves heard so much as to disrupt/stop the GA from conducting business. They THINK they're the "moral majority", when the fact of the matter is those who agree with what the GA is doing DON'T make spectacles of themselves to say that they agree. Hard to make a comparison there, isn't it?

    The ironic thing is, had the right made the same spectacles of themselves while the left was in charge, the left would probably be making some of the same comments about the protesters that we're hearing now.

    Of course, some are of the opinion that adults change things they don't like, brats throw temper tantrums.

    Do I agree with what the GA is doing? Some things yes, others, a resounding NO... and I will be writing letters and voting accordingly at next election.

  • Dan Basset Apr 30, 2015
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    Do you have the first clue what the Gadsden flag is or what it symbolizes? It has absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment. I display one with pride on my car (and have hung another in my bedroom since I was ten) to show support for states' rights against overreaching federal government. I could give two squirts whether you think I'm "cool."

    I haven't seen anyone on here say that the Moral Monday crowd should have their First Amendment rights infringed upon, but the fact is that they're breaking the law and they deserve to be punished for that. As a corollary, these folks wouldn't have the freedom to spend all their time trespassing in a feeble attempt at martyrdom if they, you know, worked and contributed to society in a meaningful way. So do I acknowledge the First Amendment rights of the Moral Monday crowd? Sure. Do I have even a modicum of respect for any of the protestors themselves? Not in a million years.

  • Tim Kelly Apr 30, 2015
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    I wonder why all the folks with their little Gadsden flag bumper stickers (unintentionally achieving "cute" status as opposed to the "cool" that they so ardently strive for) do not support the 1st Amendment as vehemently as they do the 2nd?

  • Gary Hutson Apr 30, 2015
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    They have the right to peacefully assemble and voice their opinions, and as you said let the General Assembly know their concerns, however I think that by now the General Assembly is fully aware of what their concerns are as are most everyone else in this area. Once you have brought your grievances to everyone's attention, what is the point of continuing these demonstrations over and over again. At what point is it just to be considered harassment.

  • Dan Basset Apr 30, 2015
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    We protested with our vote. It actually works, and you don't get yourself arrested for it. Imagine that.

  • Tammy Rush Apr 29, 2015
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    You were free to protest then, why didn't you?

  • Tom Boswell Apr 29, 2015
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    Exactly!!! Where were they when with Democrats were responsible for a 2.5 billion dollar deficit for the fiscal year ending in June of 2012. At the time it was the countries fifth largest. Our employment rate was 9.5% and ranked us a laughing stock 47th. Our overall tax burden rated us the 6th highest in the country according to the Tax Foundations web site. Democrats were taxing the lowest level income bracket under $21,250 for a married couple 6% which was the highest in the country at that level? Only 18 states tax their wealthiest 6% or more. Our teachers were paid at a rate of the 46th highest. We owed the federal Government 2.5 billion in unemployment benefits. Let's fast forward to today when they are protesting. We have paid off the 2.5 billion, our tax burden has fallen to the 34th highest, our unemployment has dropped to 5.4% which ranks us 25th. The drop of 4.1% since McCrory took office represents the largest drop in the country

  • Daniel Corell Apr 29, 2015
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    I had to work. Missed it.

  • Jamal Jensen Apr 29, 2015
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    Just like the rioters in Baltimore the other night, if you take the cameras away, they will all just go home. Don't know why the local news media covers these fools. I guess they get a good chuckle out of the spectacle themselves.

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