NAACP protest at legislature nets 30 arrests; rally planned
Posted May 6, 2013 4:11 a.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2013 6:30 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — More than two dozen members of the NAACP and other activists were arrested Monday as part of continuing protests of Republican policies in the state capital, bringing to nearly 50 the number of nonviolent demonstrators facing charges.
The protestors were arrested Monday by Raleigh and General Assembly police. The number of arrests, as well as the size of the crowd that turned out to offer support, grew from last Monday's demonstrations, when 17 were arrested.
Many of those arrested last week, including the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, were among the more than 80 people who crowded into the Legislative Building rotunda leading to the Senate chambers to observe and join in chants of protest.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver said law enforcement officials decided to admit them despite last week's incidents while they determine what the law permits. He said those arrested most recently will face the same charges of second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse on command and the displaying of signs or placards, which violates building rules.
The group arrested Monday included Barber's 20-year-old son, William Joseph Barber III, a student at North Carolina Central University; William Chafe, former dean of Arts and Sciences at Duke University; Robert Korstad, a professor of public policy and history at Duke; Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, an historian at the University of North Carolina; Charles van der Horst, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and members of the social justice group Raging Grannies.
"I started in 1954 at the Youth March for Integrated Schools in New York," said Vicki Ryder of Raging Grannies. "I've been doing this for a long time."
She and her fellow protestors directed their anger at the GOP-controlled legislature, which has refused to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid to provide health insurance to more poor people, has cut unemployment benefits, has ended the earned income tax credit and has passed new voting restrictions. Republicans have controlled the Legislature since 2011.
Van der Horst said those policies, in addition to efforts to restrict access to abortion, expose hypocrisy within the GOP ranks.
"These people don't believe in the sanctity of life," he said. "They believe in protecting their own wealth and their own power."
Linda Parker who works as a college minster, says she has seen students hurt from cuts to education.
"Many people are suffering across the board," she said after being released from custody early Tuesday. "It's not a time to shrink back, but we have to move forward and those of us who have a voice must use our voice on their behalf."
Rat Donheiser called her first arrest "an honor," saying that she came to Monday's protest to oppose fracking.
"What is it going to take for lawmakers to listen and respond in a way that you would want them to respond?" she said. "It's a great question. I hope somebody knows the answer. I'm willing to try whatever it takes."
Jordan Shaw, communications director for House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, referred questions to law enforcement officials.
Protest announcements followed the House passage of a bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, which many Democrats and civil rights leaders equate to a poll tax.
Barber said demonstrations with the potential for arrests will continue despite strong GOP opposition, but the hope is to sway Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to intervene or encourage legislators to repeal the laws they've passed.
Opponents of the legislature are planning another rally for 7 p.m. Tuesday, but Barber said they don't plan to enter the legislature.
"If they don't, our goal is simple, which is always the goal of nonviolent civil disobedience, is to shine the unavoidable moral light on that which is wrong until it is so clear to everyone how people have misused their power," he said.
The NAACP will announce details of a tour to press Republican lawmakers in their home districts Tuesday.