Hundreds of observers crowded onto the third-floor balcony of the N.C. General Assembly to peacefully support the 101 civil-disobedience volunteers being arrested one floor below.
Amid sweltering July temperatures in Raleigh, thousands attended the 11th wave of Moral Monday protests at the N.C. General Assembly. Early estimates from local law-enforcement and detention personnel indicate that 101 people were arrested for civil-disobedience actions of singing and praying in the hallways outside the N.C. Senate chamber door.This brings the cumulative total of Moral Monday arrests to 857. (These are unique arrests; no Moral Monday civil-disobedience arrestees have been taken into custody more than once.)
Scores of people were treated for heat-related issues, as temperatures soared well into the 90s and high humidity made it difficult for many people to handle the outdoor rally crowded onto Halifax Mall. Occasionally, physicians who had come to risk arrest dashed into the crowd to attend to individuals who fainted; at least one person had to be revived with a portable defibrillator by emergency responders at the scene and was then taken to a nearby hospital.
The heat may have kept some people home, but new protesters were activated to attend this week’s Moral Monday by the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Many in the crowd wore black hoodies and carried signs that said, “I am Trayvon.” A number of signs related to the Zimmerman acquittal were seen throughout the crowd, and the event lay at the heart of several speakers’ words at the podium.
The July 15 Moral Monday featured the largest crowd of the 11 waves of protest. Many were called to action by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Many were further called by two weeks of anti-abortion legislation that was rick-rolled into, first, an anti-Sharia law bill and then into a motorcycle-safety bill.
Here’s a video of the Moral Monday rally program that preceded the civil-disobedience action. (Apologies, I’m having trouble embedding the video, so it may be just a big black box.)
This week, too, more than two-thirds of those arrested were women outraged by passage of the now-infamous “Motorycycle Vagina” bill.
For almost two weeks, women have been flocking to the N.C. General Assembly and the nearby State Capitol Building to protest surprise anti-abortion legislation that was created by Tea Party/Republican lawmakers without due notice even to Democratic legislators. The evening of July 2, Republican legislators rick-rolled anti-abortion language into a bill that had previous focused on not permitting Sharia law to be used in North Carolina courts. After HB695 was hammered by the state’s secretary of health and human services, Gov. Pat McCrory said he would not sign the bill, despite its passage by the N.C. Senate. A few days later, virtually identical language was shoved into SB353, a bill that regulated motorcycle safety. That bill passed 74-41 the N.C. House on July 11, in a surreal vote that included discussions on such topics as “vaginal organisms” that apparently (to the Republican mind) necessitate higher sterility standards for abortions than for other medical procedures; whether box-elder bugs on a windowsill compromise medical safety; and why women who don’t “plan ahead” deserve coat-hanger abortions.
A small number of women were arrested at each of the spontaneous protests for shouting, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at the conclusion of each of the votes.
Sara raised a ruckus on July 11, when she, her daughter, and three other women wore t-shirts that spelled out the word “SHAME” and wore them into the N.C. House gallery overlooking the chambers where the House voted in an anti-abortion bill over the protests of everyone from individual women to the secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. This Moral Monday, she showed solidary with Texas women who have been frisked and searched and had tampons and maxi-pads taken from them as they entered the capitol/legislative building to protest anti-abortion bills.
In the wake of the Motorcycle Vagina bill’s passage, Gov. Pat McCrory — who initially said in a campaign pledge that he would not support changes to North Carolina’s abortion laws — has said that he would indeed sign SB353 into law. He also got into hot water by telling a newspaper reporter that he’s attended “several” Moral Monday protests and been “cussed at” by protesters. Thousands of hours of video and myriad photographs were scoured, but none showed the governor at even one event. The chief of the General Assembly Police (who is not a Moral Monday fan) likewise said that he’s never known of the governor’s presence at any of the protests; his team would be charged with providing the governor’s security.
All in all, it was an angrier, less patient Moral Monday that those that preceded it. General Assembly police, Raleigh police, and Capitol Area police were joined with many more State Bureau of Investigation officers than prior rallies/protests. On previous Moral Mondays, law-enforcement attitudes were businesslike but also respectful and even cordial; this week’s Moral Monday saw a law-enforcement presence that was much more brisk and brusque.
Speakers on the rally stage, too, were noticeably more stern with the crowd, making frequent reminders to listen respectfully to the speakers and to stay away from the area behind the stage.
Part of this was the heat; part was the fact that North Carolinians, as are people from all over the United States, are reeling over the Zimmerman acquittal and the rhetorical backlash from those who believe strongly in Stand Your Ground laws. We in North Carolina are facing a showdown over our own escalation of Stand Your Ground legislation, with a coming vote (probably as early as today) on HB937, the Gun Omnibus Bill. Tar Heel State residents are also outraged over the anti-abortion legislation that was shoved down our throats in the past two weeks.
Next week’s Moral Monday will focus on the ALEC-sponsored decimation of public education and criminal justice in North Carolina.
Some insider trivia about consequences to Moral Monday arrests: After my June 10 arrest for civil disobedience, I agreed to a ban on entering the N.C. General Assembly and Legislative Office buildings in order to gain release from the Wake County Detention Center — a ban that will last until my court case is fully adjudicated. However, with a court date of August 7, this has really made it difficult for me to continue my efforts as a citizen lobbyist, something I’ve been doing on a regular basis since February.A district court hearing on July 8 made it possible for Moral Monday arrestees to go back into the two buildings, but only with an escort from a legislator or one of his/her staff to and from scheduled meetings with a legislator. Because I’ve developed good relationships with the G.A. police, legislators (on all sides of the aisles), and staff, I’ve been able to get “winked into” the buildings for casual visits and to silently observe Moral Monday arrests (as long as I don’t participate in any way, such as by singing, praying, or clapping).
This has been great, but in the past two weeks, protests have been more spontaneous and less polite, and there has also been public criticism of the arrests that’s made the G.A. chief of police pretty pissed off. So I’ve stayed away from entering the buildings, lest I’m caught up in a crackdown and individual law-enforcement officers are spotlighted for trouble.
This week, however, I sought broader rights to enter the buildings to make appointments and talk casually with legislators, staff, and lobbyists. After meeting with an attorney, I was given dispensation from a district-court judge to obtain letters from legislators who will vouch for my citizen-lobby efforts and grant me permission to work with them on legislative matters throughout the end of the legislative session.
MsSpentyouth (left) with N.C. Sen. Earline Parmon (D-District 32), who has been supportive of citizen-lobby efforts and the Moral Monday movement. She stays at the Wake County Detention Center every Monday night until the very last civil-disobedience arrestee is processed and released.
Now I am free to enter the buildings without worrying about putting any law-enforcement officer in jeopardy, as long as I have those letters on me and don’t participate in actual protests. It’s made it so much easier for me to talk with lawmakers and staff about the final bits of legislation to be dealt with before the General Assembly adjourns for the session.Unfortunately, it’s expected that the session will end this Thursday, now that the governor and the legislature have come to an agreement on a budget and tax “reform” (aka establishment of myriad regressive taxes on everything from prescription drugs to haircuts to lawn care to groceries). So I have three more days of freedom to work on HB937 (“gun omnibus bill”), which allows people to carry concealed weapons into public schools, onto public college/university campuses, into public parks and playgrounds, to parades, to funerals, into bars, into coffeehouses, and into restaurants that serve alcohol.
A small group of us Tar Heel women are hosting a Prevent Gun Violence Lobby Day on Wednesday, July 17, at high noon on the outdoor North Portico of the N.C. General Assembly building (near the footbridge connecting the GA building with Halifax Mall, where the Legislative Office Building is situated). Please come if you can, so that we can fan out and give a last-minute notice to legislators on the problems with HB937.
Next week’s Moral Monday will be the final “regular” Moral Monday of this legislative session. Another rally and protest is scheduled for July 29, but it will be a statewide wave, with protests taking place in areas all across the state of North Carolina. Raleigh will, of course, be one of those sites.Even if you can’t come to Raleigh, you can participate in the Moral Monday movement. Visit theNAACP-NC website and make a contribution to the legal-defense fund. This makes it possible for criminals like myself to get bailed out of jail for singing, and to receive legal representation as our cases move through the courts (which, it seems, the governor seems adamant about).
Forward together! Not one step back!