Police and detention personnel estimate that 84 were arrested at tonight's action for failure to disperse, criminal trespass, and violating General Assembly rules that prohibit singing, loud talking, and holding signs. Five buses took the arrestees to Wake County Detention Center, where they are at this time still being processed and officially charged.
This brings the cumulative total of arrests to 485. These are unique arrests, not the arrests of the same individuals more than once.
In addition to those taking part in nonviolent civil disobedience on Moral Mondays, eight people were arrested at the first Witness Wednesday, June 12. Expect this number to grow as the GOP/Tea Party supermajority in the North Carolina legislature passes its raft of odious bills and they are signed into law and voters are gathering at the legislative building to lodge protests against these bills and the ALEC and Tea Party funds behind them.
Tonight's focus was on environmental issues and health care. Speakers from around the state spoke on the Halifax Mall lawn about a slew of bills making their way through the legislature that would hobble environmental oversight agencies, remove state experts from sitting on regulatory task forces and committees, reduce regulation on pollution, gut funding for health care, restrict women's access to reproductive care, and much, more more.
It's unknown at this time whether any third-floor observers were arrested. (I'm forbidden to enter the General Assembly or the Legislative Office Building until my own civil-disobedience arrest charges are fully adjudicated in August, so although officers winked me in at first, a couple of them did come by to warn me that it would be best for me to leave before the second call for dispersal, and I took their advice.)
The NAACP-NC, which sponsors the protests and provides legal defense for those who participate in asserting their constitutional right to "assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances," as the N.C. Constitution states. (You can support the protesters and the Moral Monday/Witness Wednesday movement bydonating to the Moral Monday legal-defense fund of the NAACP-NC.)
National media have begun to come to Raleigh each Monday to cover the growing protests. MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry is a vocal fan of the Moral Monday movement. NPR offered this report last week (listen or read the transcript here) after protesters braved tornados and thunderstorms to stand in the boggy grasses under umbrellas to listen to speakers and support the people who walked into the NCGA and risked arrest.
Just as increasing crowds are a measure of the success of the Moral Monday movement, so, too, are the increasingly vocal distractors. Gov. McCrory dismissed Moral Mondays by accusing the NAACP of bringing in "outsiders" to do to him what Wisconsinites attempted to do to Gov. Scott Walker; however, police records of the first 401 arrests indicate that 98% of those who've been arrested live in North Carolina. Initial research on the composition of tonight's protest crowd found that of 316 people sampled,
five of the respondents were from out-of-state and 311 were from North Carolina, overwhelmingly from the Triangle area but also from such metropolitan regions as Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Charlotte.Sen. Thom Goolsby has been another vocal detractor of the Moral Monday movement. Ten days ago, Goolsby published a vehement screed against the protesters, calling the movement "Moron Monday" and calling protesters "mostly white, angry, aged former hippies" -- despite the fact that all evidence of the crowds clearly demonstrate a diverse cross-section of North Carolinians, including old, young, and middle-aged teachers, firefighters, factory workers, university professors, doctors, municipal leaders, students .... There is virtually no segment of the state population that's not represented -- which has been confirmed by both police records and demographic surveys.
The average age of the protesters, according to the UNC researchers, was 53, with 25 percent under age 36. Sixty percent were female and the racial breakdown largely matched the 2010 Census findings — 79 percent were white, 17 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic and the rest were Asian, Pacific Islander, Indian or other.
Other outcroppings of the Moral Monday movement have gone viral. On Monday, June 10, just a couple hours before the protest at the NCGA, a group of public school supporters took Red Rider wagons filled with more than 16,000 petitions to maintain sensible class sizes in schools two blocks away to the N.C. State Capitol Building. They had previously let Gov. McCrory know that the group, with its pace set by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheredge, would arrive at 4 p.m. to deliver Red Rider wagons filled the petitions to the governor. However, when they arrived for their appointment, they were told that the governor was "in a meeting" and was unavailable to accept the petitions himself. When some members walked around the side of the building to head back to the NCGA, they saw Gov. McCrory playing a game of catch with staff members and snapped photos with their smartphones. The photos went viral. This dismissive attitude toward voters upset about the decimation of public education has spawned a number of new protests, including a flash mob that gathered at the Capitol on Thursday (June 13) for a game of catch and to deliver autographed baseballs to the governor. Progress NC is offering supporters the chance to purchase a pro-education-messaged baseball to deliver to Gov. McCrory.
Former Moral Monday arrestees have kicked off a campaign to arrange meetings with N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. McCrory to speak with them about our efforts throughout the past six months to engage in discussions about the legislation in question. Constituent requests for meetings have been denied throughout the past few months, with legislators and the governor saying that there are just too many bills for them to take input on (see Speaker Tillis' staff's response about "drinking water from a firehose" in this DKos diary).
The 8th wave of Moral Monday/Witness Wednesday will focus on labor issues, immigration reform, and women's rights. Organizers expect a much larger crowd and pool of civil-disobedience participants for the June 24 protest, which takes place on the final Monday before unemployment benefits are drastically cut in North Carolina, thanks to Gov. McCrory's refusal to expand the state's Medicaid program to repudiate the Affordable Care Act. States that refuse to participate in what's known as "Obamacare" become ineligible for federal unemployment benefits that extend compensation to those who are unable to find jobs after lengthy terms of unemployment.
Republican legislators are enthusiastically rushing to bring the current legislative session to an end, rushing bills through hearings and committees without hearing key amendments, substituting language from bills without taking them through the amendment process, and taking voice votes rather than roll-call votes to avoid transparency on which legislators vote to support which bills and to pass the bills more quickly.
House Speaker Thom Tillis urged his fellow Republican lawmakers to give up shaving until they bring the legislative session to an end. Tillis, who has announced his intention to run against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014, last week established "the beard caucus" and set forth tongue-in-bearded-cheek rules:
"Members may trim their beards. Neck trims, face trims etc are allowed but a beard is required to be compliant. Goatees, mustaches, and big sideburns will not be considered compliant.They are taking their jobs very seriously at the N.C. General Assembly. Nuttin' says transparent governance like a building filled with bewhiskered plutocrats.
"Looking forward to the pic posts between now and the end of session.”
Even if you cannot make it to Raleigh for Moral Monday or Witness Wednesday, you can participate by donating to the NAACP's Moral Monday effort. Your contributions will bail us out of jail and provide food, water, and legal assistance for arrestees after our release.