The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sarah Bufkin


Workers and Clergy Members Arrested in Speaker Thom Tillis' Office for Petitioning to Repeal a Flood of Unjust, Destructive Laws Hurting North Carolina


Hundreds of North Carolinians showed up yesterday to lobby their state legislators to repent for the harm they have caused, to repeal the flood of extreme policies passed last year and to restore confidence in our elected officials. Among them were 15 moral witnesses who visited Speaker Thom Tillis' office at 3:30 pm yesterday and who staged a sit-in when the speaker chose not to meet with them.

After nearly 12 hours of protest - and numerous warnings from the General Assembly authorities - eight workers from McDonald's, Wendy's and Bojangles; four clergy members; a nationally recognized housing expert and a retired public school employee were arrested in NC House Speaker Thom Tillis' office around 2 am Wednesday morning.

"Tonight, we put a face on the real harm these policies are inflicting across our state," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "Our state lawmakers should adhere two fundamental principles: first, that legislators should be governing for the good of the whole, and second, as our state constitution lays out, that 'beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state.' Speaker Tillis, Senate Leader Berger and Gov. McCrory have broken with both of these principles, particularly in their decisions to deny Medicaid expansion, to repeal the EITC, to cut back unemployment benefits and to pass a tax plan that benefits only the wealthiest few. They pass extreme policies, and then they will not even speak to the people their policies are hurting."

The Tillis 15 went to the Speaker's office intending to speak to him about repealing and reversing the measures that are hurting them and their neighbors directly, but they were never able to see him. Speaker Tillis apparently came into the House chamber through another entrance, conducted a short session for about an hour and a half and then left the building through another exit.

Crystal Price, a 27-year old worker at a Wendy's in Greensboro, was one of the fourteen moral witnesses arrested today. She is a mother of two children living on minimum wage and also suffers from cervical cancer. Denying the Medicaid expansion and cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit have impacted her ability to make ends meet.

Rev. Julie Peeples, another moral witness arrested today, has seen the havoc these polices have wrought in the lives of her congregation at the United Church of Christ in Greensboro. She knows teachers who hold down two jobs to because they make so little in North Carolina public schools and hardworking North Carolinians without health care access because they fall into the Medicaid gap.

These arrests will not stop or dissuade the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement from pushing our state legislators to do the right thing and repeal these unjust laws. We will return to the General Assembly next Monday, June 2 for a Moral Monday action.

More information on the next Moral Monday to come.

The list of Tillis 15 moral witnesses is below:

    1. Rev. Julie Peeples
    2. Minister Rubye Harris
    3. Meyshon Payton
    4. Jesseia Jackson
    5. Amber Matthews*
    6. Crystal Prize
    7. Randolph Perry
    8. Norma Clark
    9. Norman Clark
    10. Jason McCullen
    11. Tyrek Pierce
    12. Rev. Dick Weston Jones
    13. Stella Adams
    14. Fay Daniel
    15. Rev. C. Anthony Jones
  • One of the original moral witnesses, Amber Matthews, left the action shortly after midnight, concerned that she, as a single mother, would not be able to get her son to school in the morning.

    To see personal testimonies from some of the Tillis 15, check out the new video from the sit-in HERE.