14 Moral Mondays Protesters Arrested at NC Republican House Speaker’s Office

Fourteen people were arrested Wednesday after a sit-in at the North Carolina House Speaker’s office protesting budget cuts that have caused the state “pain and problems.”

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Protesters address the media inside North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FUSION FILMS

If North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis was under the impression that implementing new rules in the state Capitol for public demonstrations would be enough to silence the Moral Mondays protesters who made Raleigh, N.C., a focal point in progressive politics during last year’s legislative session, he might want to rethink.

After all, as the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the North Carolina NAACP leader and Moral Mondays organizer told The Root, “When you engage in civil disobedience, you’re willing to break unjust laws.” And it was in that spirit that 14 protesters were arrested Wednesday morning inside Tillis’ office after a 10-hour sit-in/sleep-in.

The legislature was closed for business over Monday’s Memorial Day holiday, but on Tuesday, after members of the Moral Mondays coalition made the rounds at the General Assembly to meet with members of the legislature, a group of 15 protesters upped the ante by sitting in at the speaker’s office, demanding a meeting with Tillis to negotiate their movement’s demands to roll back moves made by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last year that imposed voter-ID restrictions, ended the state’s earned income tax credit, cut unemployment benefits and rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.

Contacted by phone at the state Capitol Tuesday evening, Barber said that more than 500 protesters were at the Capitol to demand that legislators “repent, repeal and restore”—pushing back on legislative action that “denied 500,000 people Medicaid.”

Describing the sit-in, he explained, “There’s a lady in there with cervical cancer who needs Medicaid and cannot get it because [leadership in] this state has been so poor under Tillis, [Senate Majority Leader Phil] Berger and [Gov. Pat] McCrory. There’s a pregnant lady who decided to [protest] because she would have benefited from the earned income tax credit. Sixty-five-thousand veterans would have benefited from the earned income tax credit” that Republican lawmakers voted to undo in 2013.

By around 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, the protest ended with 14 of the protesters arrested on charges of second-degree trespassing. They were the first arrests of this year’s legislative session after 2013’s session saw several hundred arrests last summer.

Raleigh’s News & Observer recapped the day’s events leading up to the sit-in here.

At first, protesters gathered outside Speaker Tillis’ office:

Later, Barber delivered pizza and spoke with the House sergeant-at-arms:

Pointing out that Republicans in North Carolina, and nationally, have previously supported the state’s EITC and extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, Barber described the current General Assembly as “not a Republican legislature—it’s not mainstream—it’s not a Democratic legislature—it’s an extreme legislature.”

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