Moral Monday came back on Wednesday, and though the crowd may have been small—400 people at most—the point was made, if not taken: people are unhappy with many of the Legislature’s policies and the direction it’s taking the state.
According to General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver, twenty people were arrested for fire code violations and trespassing. The arrests began in the afternoon with several clergy and other protesters, when they blocked the doors to the Senate chamber and disrupted the session with singing and chanting.
The main demonstration was held at Bicentennial Mall directly across the street from the entrance to the General Assembly building, beginning at 5 p.m. Dodging the rain, speakers bemoaned everything from coal ash to cronyism; the North Carolina NAACP, headed by the Rev. William Barber, which has orchestrated the demonstrations for the past two years has a 14-point list of demands from lawmakers.
The timing of Moral Monday’s return was crucial. With the crossover deadline fast-approaching (where all non-fiscal, non-administrative bills have to pass at least one chamber in order to be considered in the next phase of the legislative session) the House was debating several controversial bills, racing to get as much through as possible before midnight. House members routinely complained about the noise coming from the demonstrations outside.
Among the bills on the calendar was an omnibus gun bill known as the “Second Amendment Affirmation Act” which would loosen gun laws dramatically. The House didn’t vote on the bill yesterday but a committee voted to put a $20, 000 appropriation fee on the measure, keeping it eligible as a fiscal bill past the crossover deadline.
“They are more focused on giving people more opportunity to get guns, rather than giving school teachers and students what they need,” the Rev. Barber said yesterday. “Guns rather than giving Medicaid to thousands of people, guns rather than giving workers a living wage, guns rather than giving women and immigrants and the LGBT community legal respect under the law. Guns rather than making sure we deal with our broken criminal justice system. They are more interested in guns than giving people the right to vote.”
Yesterday’s arrests and more that are sure to come likely won’t mean that much. In 2013 and 2014, more than 1,000 people were arrested at the General Assembly during Moral Monday demonstrations. Wake County’s then-District Attorney Colon Willoughby dropped most of the cases after a Chief Wake County Superior Court Judge dismissed charges against Barber and 16 other co-arrestees, including many elected officials, from the first Moral Monday demonstration on April 29, 2013.
According to the NC NAACP website, Moral Monday—now known as the Forward Together Moral Movement— events are scheduled weekly through July 6, to take place in Raleigh on Wednesdays and in other North Carolina cities on Mondays. On May 4, demonstrators will gather in Sanford to protest proposed coal ash dumps in Lee and Chatham Counties. On May 13, Moral Monday will return to Raleigh to rally for labor rights and living wages.
“We’re going into the districts of our greatest adversaries,” Barber told the crowd yesterday. “We’re going to induct them into the Hall of Shame, right in their own district, because we’re finding out that a lot of people don’t even know what they’re doing up here.”