Raleigh, N.C. — The state chapter of the NAACP said Friday that it plans to fight charges filed against people arrested during a series of protests at the Legislative Building instead of accepting a deal offered by Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby to end the cases.
Willoughby said recently that his office would dismiss trespassing and other charges filed against more than 900 people during the so-called "Moral Monday" protests if they agree to perform 25 hours community service and pay $180 in court costs.
Arrestees wouldn't have to admit guilt if they fulfilled the two requirements of the deal.
"This is an offer the North Carolina NAACP does not advocate," the group, which helped organize the protests, said in a statement.
"We understand and endorse the moral and political power that over 940 people might bring to their communities from doing the community service, but we do not support the extracting of admissions of wrongdoing and the payment of a ransom in the form of court cost for engaging in actions that are clearly protected by our Constitution."
The NAACP said $180 represents a week's pay or two weeks of groceries for some of the protesters.
Still, the group said the choice to take the deal or fight the charges is a personal one for each defendant.
Some people have already opted for the deal. Hundreds of others are still awaiting trials on the charges, which could swamp Wake County's court system.
"The N.C. NAACP has the greatest respect, love and gratitude for each of the Moral Monday defendants, whatever their choice. Whether you decide to serve our community or challenge the constitutionality and legality of the arrests in the courtroom is between you, your conscience and your pro bono attorney," the group's statement said. "We applaud the over 940 Moral Monday defendants for whatever decision they make."