[Update x 2, Thursday, May 9: The AP is reporting that next Monday will be another “Moral Monday” at the General Assembly, with non-violent civil disobedience again in the offing.]

[Update, Tuesday, May 7: The NAACP called for a candlelight vigil and protest rally tonight outside the Legislative Building. Because of predicted bad weather, they’ve moved to Martin St. Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St., Raleigh. Start time is the same, 7 p.m. Details on the NC NAACP website.]

The original post from Friday is below —

On Monday, 17 protesters were arrested at the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the total rose to 22 as five students were arrested. It’s only the beginning.

Rev. William Barber (center with group today at Martin Street Baptist Church
  • photo by Bob Geary
  • Rev. William Barber (center with group today at Martin Street Baptist Church

A progressive coalition headed by state NAACP President William Barber, and which includes students, college faculty, citizen activists and clergy, announced today that they’ll conduct Monday pray-ins while the the General Assembly remains in session — a period that is expected to extend through May and June, at least.

“We will not stop,” Barber said. “We did not start to stop.” He accused legislative leaders of using their power to hurt “the least of these” — the poor and those in need.

Barber called on the public to join these demonstrations and to “explore” whether they want to take the next step and engage in non-violent civil disobedience — in other words, be a part of the mass rallies, and perhaps be among those who are willing to be arrested.

The first such “Moral Monday” event will be May 6 — next Monday — with participants gathering first at 4 p.m. at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh, adjacent to Moore Square on the corner of E. Davie and S. Person streets. One reason for the meeting at the church is to discuss how the General Assembly’s police force is responding to the protests and what actions are likely to trigger an arrest.

Barber said state capitals have become the new battleground between progressive forces which have been on the rise for 50 years — the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham, Alabama “Children’s Crusade” of 1963 was this week — and reactionary leaders determined to roll back the last half-century’s social and civil rights gains.

Two years ago, Madison, Wisconsin was ground zero in this battle for the states. This year, it’s Raleigh, North Carolina, where the election of a Republican governor along with veto-proof Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly have combined to unleash a torrent of right-wing legislation.

Barber, speaking this morning to supporters and the media at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, reminded everyone that the NAACP wrote to McCrory in December asking for a chance to work with the governor. Similarly, he said, members have been to the General Assembly trying to meet with House Speaker Thom Tillis, but he had no time for them. Barber accused McCrory, Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of being the “George Wallaces of the 21st century,” standing in the schoolhouse door against progress.

“it’s got to stop somewhere, and [the public] has to rise up and say something,” said the Rev. Anthony Spearman, an NAACP leader from Hickory.

Tim Tyson, a Duke University Divinity School professor-historian, said at least three notable progressive scholars from Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill have told him they’ll be at the rally May 6 and are willing to be arrested. Other scholars may join in, Tyson said.

An unknown to me, and to everyone I spoke to in the group this morning, is whether the General Assembly’s cops, who take their cues from Tillis and Berger, will allow demonstrators into the building next week — as they did this past Monday — and arrest them only if they step over some line that the cops announce on the spot … or will they repeat what they did Wednesday, when they arrested student demonstrators for attempting to enter the building?

Barber said that preventing citizens from entering the Legislative Building may well be unconstitutional, especially since those arrested on Monday are only accused, not convicted, of the charges against them. “They may stop us at the door,” he conceded. “But that doesn’t matter. We’re still going.”