Not since the days of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins has North Carolina been such a hot bed of civil disobedience.
Nearly 50 individuals were arrested Monday evening outside the Senate chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly protesting a conservative majority and their "shameful attacks" on the poor and working families of North Carolina.
The action, largely organized by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, marked the third consecutive week of protests and arrests. The previous Monday saw 30 people arrested following 17 the week before.
"The point is every Monday they open the session, and every week they announce new forms of extremism, so every Monday we will continue to rise up," explained North Carolina NAACP head Rev. William Barber, who is calling the weekly demonstration "Moral Mondays".
According to a local news source, this Monday's protest focused specifically on labor rights and tax reform, which the Republican-led state legislature is targeting in a series of new bills which push for lower corporate tax and income rates and further weaken unions' rights already handicapped by the state's 'right-to-work' laws.
Outside the chambers, protestors carried signs which read "Workers' rights are union rights" and led call-and-response chants of "This is what Democracy looks like!" and "Fight, fight, fight!"
The NAACP was joined by other social justice groups including activist grandmothers the Raging Grannies. “One of our sayings is ‘Stay in Trouble’ and that’s what we intend to do because we have to fight against anything that threatens the future of our grandchildren,” said Vicki Ryder, 71, who was one of the thirty individuals arrested last week.
The conservative-run General Assembly has been mounting "an assault" on the state's poor and unemployed. The demonstrations are both attacking those policies and the officials behind them—who largely won their office through a series of restrictive voting laws and, as the NAACP writes, "a race-based redistricting plan that is the most discriminatory since the 19th century."
"The leadership of our General Assembly clearly sees political advantage in blocking the vote, attacking the public schools, and dividing North Carolina even further into the haves and have-nots," writes the North Carolina NAACP in a statement on their site. "The policies pursued in these chambers will devastate hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are already suffering. The leadership of this Republican 'super-majority' are deaf to the cries of those whom Jesus called 'the least of these.'"
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According to the group—in just the first 50 days of their work—this 'super-majority' has already voted and passed legislation on the following:
- Deny federal funds for Medicaid to 500,000 poor North Carolinians.
- Take unemployment benefits from 165,000 North Carolinians.
- Raise taxes on 900,000 of North Carolina's poor and working poor by ending the Earned Income Tax Credit to pay for tax cuts to 23 millionaires.
- That took over a billion dollars last year from public education, made plans to implement a voucher plan to hand out public money to private schools, and reduce eligibility to preschool for poor children.
- To re-start the death penalty and repeal the Racial Justice Act that has exposed the racially discriminatory application of the death penalty.
- To codify anti-labor language in our state constitution.
- To roll back Early Voting, ban Sunday Voting, end same-day registration and impose an unneeded poll tax disguised as Voter ID bill that will cost the state millions, deny student ids from private schools, increase disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated, charge parents a $2500 tax (poll tax) if there college student votes at college and not at home, and leave us with voting laws more restrictive than Alabama and South Carolina.
The NAACP statement continues:
We have no other choice but to assemble in the people's house where these bills are being presented, argued, and voted upon.
[W]e call on all people of goodwill, regardless of race, political affiliation, or socio-economic background, to examine the tools of the non-violent moral movement to expose the hurtful, immoral, and unconstitutional policies being passed in the people's house. Those who cannot put on the yoke of nonviolence can still join and support this movement. But if we care about this great state and its entire people, if we wish to act as moral leaders in our homeland, we must shine the light of words and deeds on these shameful attacks on the poor and working families of North Carolina.
Now is the time. Here is the place. We are the people. And we will be heard.
This video and interview was made at this week's "Moral Monday" event.
Story of America produced this video about the demonstrations as a reprisal of civil-rights era battles for rights.