Every Monday, for the past 11 Mondays, protesters have congregated in front of the North Carolina General Assembly building. Their numbers range from the hundreds into the thousands, week by week. North Carolina's "Moral Mondays" began months ago, after a series of new measures from the Republican-led state legislature cut unemployment benefits, turned down federal funding for Medicaid, and restricted voting. Add to that the more recent headline-ready series of anti-abortion bills making their way through state legislature, and the NAACP-led, progressive-leaning protests had a robust weekly ritual for those who oppose the GOP policies emerging from the legislative building.
This week, protesters were focusing on women's rights, pegged to the recent anti-abortion legislation. But the protests were also about the Zimmerman verdict, and about the series of economic issues that keep the demonstrators coming back to Raleigh, week after week.
Moral Monday is powerful. THIS is North Carolina pic.twitter.com/tS9IV1bBvc— The Mountain Goats (@mountain_goats) July 15, 2013
As of last week, over 700 had been arrested in front of the General Assembly. At least 100 more were arrested today. Often, those arrests came from acts of civil disobedience — which, in this case, amounts to volunteering ahead of time for arrest, and then ignoring a five-minute warning to disperse. Those who volunteer have taken to lining up while they await arrest.
At first, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory dismissed the protests as an astroturfing from outsiders. But the arrest records tell a different story: according to WRAL, 98 percent of the protesters arrested from April through early June were North Carolina residents. More recently, he's disparaged the character of those protesting, telling the following to the Wilson Times:
"I go out in the crowd all of the time,” McCrory said. "Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful. They did not represent the majority of those who call themselves moral by cussing me out. But that’s the way things go some times.”
Of those arrested, there's the 72-year-old Episcopal priest, who, after her June arrest at a Moral Monday protest, was barred from continuing to minister to prisoners as the Mecklenburg County jail chaplain. There are the Duke professors (and Duke pastors) who teach civil rights. Some have started to ask why the General Assembly, nicknamed the "People's House," is even sending out officers to arrest the protesters in the first place.