Raleigh, N.C. — House Speaker Tim Moore met for about an hour today with Rev. William Barber and other leaders of the "Moral Monday" movement, which has led protests against Republican-crafted policies at the General Assembly building for the past two years.
It marked the first time since protests began at the General Assembly that a sitting House speaker had met with Barber and protest leaders. Barber said U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who served as House speaker during the last four years, had never agreed to meet with protest leaders.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger did meet last summer with a group of teachers who protested in the building as part of the Moral Monday events, but has not met with Barber directly. The two did exchange letters during the last legislative session, according to Berger's office.
Both Moore and Barber individually described Wednesday's meeting as productive, but they were cautious when asked if it would have any lasting impact.
"It's never a bad idea to meet and discuss your differences. You never really know what they are until you talk," Moore, R-Cleveland, said.
Standing on the House floor just before Wednesday afternoon's session, Moore added, "I really think that's the kind of dialog that needs to happen. The folks getting outside her, and making all the noise and disrupting session does nothing. I really am disappointed with what happened Monday."
On Monday night, the House had no substantial business on its agenda, but members were passing a resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America. As part of the session, scout leaders were invited to speak, and they had trouble being heard over the noise from protesters outside the chamber doors.
Barber said neither he nor others with him promised to change their protest tactics.
"If we had not had the years of protest, we would not have had this meeting," Barber said shortly after walking out of Moore's office, saying the Moral Monday movement had become too big for top leaders to ignore.
During Wednesday's meeting, he said, he and members of the League of Women Voters, other pastors and other protest leaders talked about Medicaid expansion, the need for more school funding and a request to raise the state's minimum wage.
"What we will look at is what comes out of it (the meeting)," Barber said.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, was also in the meeting. Lewis said that he hopes Barber and other Moral Monday leaders would recognize not just when they disagree with legislative leaders, but when there is compromises that give each side a little of what they want.
For his part, Barber said that his group wants to be about more than protesting to help offer solutions.
"We wanted him to know we're not just here cursing the darkness," Barber said.