Protesting Against "Pain" as Moral Monday Arrests Near 700 in North Carolina
North Carolina's protest movement speaks out against assault on voting rights and cuts to jobless benefits
Monday marked the ninth wave of civil disobedience actions known as "Moral Mondays" in North Carolina where the NAACP-coordinated event resulted in 80 people being taken into custody, bringing the total arrests since its inception in April to almost 700.
"There are so many unjust things happening you can't narrow it to just one ..." —Sally Johnson, participant
The action took place one week after the gutting of the historic Voting Rights Act and on the exact day unemployment benefits were slated to be cut for 70,000 North Carolinians, two injustices the rally focused on.
A flyer posted on the NC NAACP website emphasized the importance of demonstrating at such a historic time. With "Protect the Unemployed!" and "Let the People Vote!" bolded at the top of the page, the statement continued:
The Pain Begins... The NC General Assembly and the Governor have launched an all-out attack on voters, unemployed workers and poor children, women and men! 70,000 North Carolinians lose their only source of sustenance on July 1 because they decided to deny them unemployment benefits, with 100,000 more losing them by the end of the year.
The ultra conservatives pounced on a Tea Party US Supreme Court Decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement, by bringing legislation that would create a 21st Century poll tax disguised as Voter ID.
The protest began at 5 p.m. and two hours later the arrests began. According to local news outlet WRAL, General Assembly police chief Jeff Weaver warned those assembled in the atrium that their protest was "unlawful" and they would be arrested if they did not leave. Dozens of officers handcuffed those who remained with zip-ties. As the arrests began, the crowd began to sing "This Little Light of Mine," adding their own chorus "even in a jail cell, I'm going to let it shine!"
When asked her reason for attending, participant Sally Johnson replied, "There are so many unjust things happening you can't narrow it to just one."
Former state director of mental health services and veteran Mike Pedneau, who was arrested along with his wife Betsey, expressed concern about the GOP's cuts. He explained, "Not funding Medicaid is criminal... I'm especially concerned by what is happening to homeless veterans."
In regards to the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, GOP leaders within the state are already crafting a plan to end early voting, Sunday voting, and same-day registration within the state, measures that the LA Times report are all popular with African American voters. Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Allison Riggs said this movement is "only the first indication that the ruling will have 'a demonstrably negative impact on voters of color.'"
More action is scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon at a demonstration referred to as "Witness Wednesday."
Lucia Brown is a summer editorial intern at Common Dreams.