"We are a movement. This is not a moment."
–Rev. William Barber
North Carolina security agencies attack Moral Monday assembly, 2013-05-20 [link]
2013-06-17 "NAACP protest ends with 84 arrests"
RALEIGH -- A protest led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP led to the arrests of 84 people Monday at the state legislature in the seventh installment of the civil rights group's near-weekly demonstrations.
Protesters and supporters railed against the health and environmental policies of the Republican-controlled legislature as well as claims from GOP leaders that they're disenchanted "outsiders." Police estimated a crowd attending a rally before the protests approached roughly 1,000 people.
What started with 17 arrests and dozens of supporters in late April has grown to encompass a wider coalition of left-leaning demonstrators who are outraged over Republican policies ranging from social spending to education and voting rights. Monday's protests brought the arrest total to more than 450 as NAACP chapter president the Rev. William Barber called for mass rallies for the next two weeks of demonstrations.
Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly and the executive branch simultaneously for the first time since 1870.
Supporters varying in age and ethnicity held signs emphasizing that they are locals in response to comments from Gov. Pat McCrory and the state Republican Party chairman that protesters represent outside interests.
"We don't need any outside support to get this point across," said Marge Macintyre of Chapel Hill.
Others held up signs opposing legislation that critics fear will speed up oil and gas drilling in the state. Many critics say hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking," poses threats to water supplies.
"The technology of fracking is not ready for primetime," said Ken Crossen, who said he's an engineer from Pittsboro. "This whole thing is political, but it ought to be driven by engineering."
Outside the Senate chambers--where protesters have gathered each week to deliver speeches, chants and songs--supporters drowned out initial commands to disperse issued through megaphone by General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver. Barber tried to quiet the crowd to let individual speakers explain why they were choosing to be arrested.
"If you want justice, you have to let people say why we're here," he said.
Barber said before the protests that the next two Mondays will include mass rallies along the lines of an earlier week. The legislature is expected to wrap up its regular yearly session in the coming weeks.
Barber said in an interview earlier in the day that the NAACP will continue leading events that bring greater attention to the policies of the legislature even after it adjourns.
"This is not a temporary exercise in futility," he said. "This is a movement."
The NAACP estimates about 4,500 people attended Monday's protest, which is the largest yet.
Meanwhile, a new poll by the left-leaning group Public Policy Polling shows only 20 percent of people approve of the job the legislature is doing, while 56 percent disapprove. McCrory's approval numbers are at their lowest since taking office. He sits at a 39 percent disapproval rating. Forty-five percent approve of him.
2013-06-05 "150 Arrested Protesting North Carolina's Attacks on Workers, Poor"
by Samantha Winslow from "Labor Notes" [www.labornotes.org/2013/06/150-arrested-protesting-north-carolinas-attacks-workers-poor]:
Labor activists gather at the state capitol to protest draconian voter and labor laws. Photo: Shafeah M'Balia
Remember the dramatic, aggressive attacks on workers by legislatures in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan? Now North Carolina is following suit. Republicans, who control all branches of government in North Carolina, have proposed dozens of bills attacking workers’ rights, health care access, voting rights, and social programs.
“It’s just vicious, ugly,” said Shafeah M’Balia, a member of the Letter Carriers union. M’Balia is part of a labor delegation protesting in Raleigh, the state capital, alongside the NAACP and other social justice and religious groups. On Monday, 150 were arrested.
As in Wisconsin, organizers see hope in the growing numbers and increased militancy at their weekly actions. Labor activists are uniting with anti-poverty and anti-racism campaigns. “It is bringing out people that have never been out before,” M’Balia said.
Civil Disobedience -
The group calls them Moral Mondays. Protesters march to the legislature and hold rallies inside. Rank-and-file members and leaders from unions including United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 150 (representing public sector workers), Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Letter Carriers Branch 1729, the Postal Workers, and the North Carolina AFL-CIO are part of the labor delegation.
They passed out yellow armbands (to symbolize that they are rising like the sun) both at worksites and at the capital protests. The rallies have grown since the first on May 3. More people are participating in civil disobedience, refusing to leave the building when ordered by law enforcement. People chanted, “What do we do when they ban collective bargaining? We fight, we fight, we fight!”
They chanted and sang as they were arrested, and on the way to jail. Seventeen were arrested the first week, 24 the second week, 49 the third week. On June 3, some 2,000 people rallied and 150 were arrested. “Going to jail is a real small price to pay,” said Raleigh resident Bruce Lightner at the May 13 press conference, as activists were handcuffed and removed from the legislative building.
The activists, many of whom are African-American, see their fight as aligned with the voting rights work of the civil rights movement. “You should not be arresting us for shining an unavoidable moral light on the tragic policies that are being passed in the back room,” said North Carolina NAACP head Rev. William J. Barber.
Dramatic Attacks -
The state legislature has been under Republican control since 2010. A Republican governor took power in January. The party now dominates all branches of North Carolina’s government for the first time since Reconstruction. The Republicans wasted no time in mapping out their agenda. The legislature and governor have declined the Medicaid expansion that comes with the Affordable Care Act, which would have covered 500,000 additional poor North Carolinians. They are ending extended unemployment benefits, cutting off 165,000 people and cutting the maximum dollar amount of benefits people can receive.
They are ending the Earned Income Tax Credit, essentially raising taxes on 900,000 poor and working people—while, of course, cutting taxes on millionaires. They plan to implement a school voucher system that sponsors children to attend private and parochial schools instead of their district public schools. They want to create a separate governing body for the charter schools, excluding them from democratic school board governance. They want to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which allows death row inmates to challenge their sentences and possibly get sentences commuted to life if they can prove racial bias at trial.
Lawmakers want to restrict early voting, end Sunday voting, restrict same-day registration, add a Voter ID law, further restrict those convicted of felonies from voting, and challenge students’ right to vote at their universities by charging their parents $2,500 if they vote away from their home addresses.
Finally, to add insult to injury for North Carolina’s workforce, in a “right-to-work” state that has prohibited public sector workers from collective bargaining since 1959, lawmakers want to cement these laws in the state constitution (along with a ban on the card-check method of organizing). North Carolina has the lowest union density in the U.S., so the earlier anti-union measures have clearly been effective. But the current lawmakers voted to weaken the existing grievance procedure for 90,000 state workers and remove automatic payroll deduction of union dues.
Organizable Moment -
Retired UE representative Saladin Muhammad views the response to the bills as an organizing opportunity for labor activists. “We saw this as a call to action to become more visible at our workplaces,” he said. In organizing North Carolina municipal workers, he said, UE’s motto is, “We don’t have a right to bargain, but we have a right to fight.” He said the NAACP has been central to the campaign against the Republicans’ brutal plans.
Leader Rev. Barber has come to worksites to speak about the issues. The test of the growing movement, M’Balia said, will be whether it can get to enough members and get them educated and involved in the campaign—quickly enough to stop the drastic bills. “Their union experience is so shallow,” M’Balia said. “It takes a while for it to deepen. There are still a lot of folks who haven’t a clue what’s going on.”
2013-06-04 "'We Are Movement, Not a Moment': North Carolina Peaceful Uprising Continues; 'If you thought you had a fight a month ago, you ain't seen nothing yet,' say protest leaders as 151 arrested"
by Jon Queally from "Common Dreams" [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/04-7]:
Doubling the number of people arrested overall in a single day, 151 people were arrested at this week's 'Moral Monday' protest as they tried to enter the Senate chamber at the state house in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Yesterday's protest, according to local outlet WRAL, was the largest demonstration yet since the state chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups began protesting "GOP policies on social programs, education, criminal justice and taxes" more than five weeks ago. Smaller groups of people had been arrested at previous actions [http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/21-2], but each time the number grows as more people attend and the group's energy increases.
"The people are awake now, and we have decided to stand up," state NAACP chapter president Rev. William Barber told the crowd Monday. "We are a movement. This is not a moment."
Welcoming the comparison of the populist energy in North Carolina to that witnessed previously in Wisconsin in 2011, Barber said there were also differences. "This ain’t Wisconsin,” he told the crowd. “This is the South, where justice was hammered out.”
This video released by the coalition articulates their grievances in North Carolina as it seeks to capture the energy feeding the movement:
This slideshow used the recorded words from Monday's rally along with images of those gathered:
The civil disobedience action by the more than 150 people arrested was a planned event and the Raleigh News & Observer recounts just one woman's story about why she participated:
Jennifer Ferrell stopped so her husband could take her picture. Then she waved goodbye to her 3-year-old twins and marched into the Legislative Building to get handcuffed.
“I’m excited. I’m not nervous,” the 34-year-old Raleigh resident said as she walked in a line of demonstrators. “I’m passionate. I’m not crazy.”
For weeks now, Ferrell heard about protesters getting arrested at the statehouse to demonstrate against the Republican majority’s legislative agenda. And like many Monday, she felt compelled to add her voice to the chants and her wrists to the handcuffs. “I knew it was time to stop watching and do it myself,” she said.
Later, as those place under arrest after their attempt to enter the chamber were led away by police, the gathered crowd of hundreds cheered them as they passed to busses waiting to take them to jail for processing.
2013-05-16 "Workers and Veterans Arrested at NC General Assembly | NC NAACP"
upload to Youtube.com by William J. Barber, II [www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ziOQXcCL7Y#!]:
May 13th, 2013 - In this third week of protests, 49 citizens - including workers, veterans, clergy, professors, students, labor activists and the Chair of the Durham County Board of Elections - are arrested at the North Carolina General Assembly for protesting regressive legislation.