Local News

Legislative protesters seek dismissal of charges

Posted June 24, 2013

— A Wake County judge on Monday set September court dates for the first group of people arrested in the so-called "Moral Monday" protests at the legislature.

Seventeen people were arrested April 29 during the first of what have become weekly demonstrations against Republican-backed legislation that the protesters say harm the working class. More than 450 people so far have been charged with misdemeanor counts of second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse on command and violating building rules, and more protests are planned.

Attorney Irving Joyner said the charges should be dismissed on constitutional grounds, arguing that the protesters have a right to assemble on public property.

"The North Carolina Constitution says that every citizen has the right to go to the General Assembly and address their legislators and to issue any complaints that they have about the work that they're doing," Joyner said. "(The protesters) were being arrested not because of what they did but that they were protesting against actions that we deem to be improper, untimely, spiteful and mean-spirited toward the poor."

District Judge Daniel Nagle said his court was set to handle only pleas or the assignment of attorneys, not to have any hearings with witnesses. So, he split the group in half and assigned them court dates of Sept. 23 and Sept. 30, when the issue of dismissal will be heard.

Initial appearances for subsequent groups of protesters are scheduled in the coming weeks, but they likewise could be pushed back for trials.

Joyner, who is also a law professor at North Carolina Central University, has said he hopes that Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby would review the cases and dismiss the charges.

"The General Assembly cannot continue to operate as if it's a ma and pa candy store," he said.

Moral Monday protesters in court Protests at General Assembly move to court

Willoughby, a Democrat, has said he hasn't decided what to do with the Moral Monday cases. He said Friday that his office hasn't yet received video footage and other evidence from the police. He previously urged protesters to stop, citing the strain the arrests put on an already overburdened court system.

Another mass protest was held Monday night. The demonstrators want Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature to pull back their agenda, which has included bills that cut unemployment benefits, roll back environmental protections and require voters to show photo identification at the polls.

"When you have a legislature that is this extreme, this immoral and this committed to turning us backwards, then we have to be committed even more to go forward together," said state NAACP President Rev. William Barber, one of the 17 protesters in court.

Republicans have dismissed the protests and vowed to press ahead.

"I'm not sure I'm talking to the legislators – they don't seem to be listening – but I'm talking to fellow North Carolinians to say, 'Look around. Think about your life and the lives of your neighbors,'" protester Marty Belin said outside court.

For some protesters, the fight is intensely personal.

Maria Palmer, who is working as an unpaid intern, will lose her unemployment benefits next Monday because of legislation passed by the GOP-controlled legislature.

"I don't know how I'm going to pay my bills until my internship ends in August. I've been looking for work," Palmer said.

201 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • NOTSOBAD Jun 25, 1:51 p.m.

    "and require voters to show photo identification at the polls". Take the fines and help all these folks get ID's

  • goldenosprey Jun 25, 12:48 p.m.

    " I like the community service sentence. Court cost, a small fine and a BUNCH of hours of community service."Hugh Jarce

    They ARE doing community service by taking time out of their days to protest the egregious misappropriation of resources under this radical general assembly. The legislators waste 1000 times more than any group of protestors could hope to with their unconstitutional bills and destruction of the middle class.

  • wildpig777 Jun 25, 12:03 p.m.

    Each person arrested needs to perform 1000 hours of community service and a severe fine to replace all the money the state has wasted

    NCSU_JIM
    can we hold bev perdue to your standard? how many 100's of millions were squandered under her reign? can we hold 120 yrs of democrat rule of the state to any sort of rational standard?

  • Hugh Jass Jun 25, 8:37 a.m.

    The fine amounts never find there way back to where the cost was applied. I like the community service sentence. Court cost, a small fine and a BUNCH of hours of community service.

  • RaleighPirate Jun 25, 8:09 a.m.

    Prosecute these lawbreakers to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately if they are fined it will probably only be a small portion of the cost of what it took for law enforcement and the courts to deal with their civil disobedience. If they want to stand up and protest their government, then they need to also be willing to pay the price for their actions. They are asking that the government be willing to answer for their actions. Then I think it is only fair that the protestors also answer for their actions.

  • oldaltar Jun 24, 7:59 p.m.

    This state legistautre has a 25 percent approval rating. That says it all. Gerrymandering got them elected with less vote.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Jun 24, 7:56 p.m.

    "...protest people who have had less than a year in total control because they are tearing down your 100 year failed polices..." - mawiggins1970

    How was cutting Medicare from 600,000 children "tearing down failed policies"? How was passing super-fracking "tearing down failed policies"? How was repealing water-quality protections on Jordan Lake "tearing down failed policies"? How was bill 494 to pass "an official state religion" "tearing down of failed policies"? How was setting a new extreme in gerrymandering that attracted international ridicule to our state "tearing down failed policies"? How was selling a state prison to a legislator's employer for $1 "tearing down failed policies"? How was opening mega landfills to collect out-of-state trash in "leak-resistant trucks" "tearing down failed policies"? I'm all ears: how does this improve anything from the last 100 years?

  • NCSU_JIM Jun 24, 7:56 p.m.

    Each person arrested needs to perform 1000 hours of community service and a severe fine to replace all the money the state has wasted

  • oldaltar Jun 24, 7:50 p.m.

    have got to be kidding. These are nothing more than cowards hiding behind their "racial guilt".
    stymieindurham

    Who said anything about race. White folks also gave their lives in non violent protests. Oop, I see that your true colors are shining through and your lack of knowledge.

  • Justic4All Jun 24, 7:49 p.m.

    I hope the courts keep them coming back every time they make a motion for dismissal. Nope come back in a month.

More...