More Moral Monday cases dismissed by NC judges

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Moral Monday protests resumed Monday at the Bicentennial Mall in front of the legislative building in Raleigh.

“This represents the first time that district court judges have looked at and evaluated the constitutional claims we have made,” said Irv Joyner, legal advisor for the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, which sponsored the Moral Monday events.

In their decisions, North Carolina District Judges Joyce Hamilton and Anne Salisbury cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that concerned anti-abortion advocates at Massachusetts abortion clinics. The Court struck down a state law that had created a wide buffer zone around the clinics where demonstrations could not occur.

Moral Monday Protest
Moral Monday Protest
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Both North Carolina judges wrote that individuals can only be restricted in their free speech if they are “actually disrupting or obstructing legitimate governmental interests.” 

Hamilton heard and dismissed five of the Moral Monday protesters’ cases on July 30, and Salisbury dismissed eight more cases in mid-August.

Nearly 1,000 people were arrested at the state legislature during the demonstrations in 2013.

“We had been making constitutional arguments to get these cases dismissed all along,” said Scott Holmes, director of the Civil Litigation Clinic at N.C. Central. He has represented many of the Moral Monday protesters in court.

Holmes said Jeff Weaver, police chief at the N.C. General Assembly, argued the noise and large mass of protesters at the demonstrations interfered with the lawmakers’ ability to conduct government business.

But in fact, Holmes said the protesters’ speech was being restricted.

“In the Moral Monday cases, when Chief Weaver demanded protesters evacuate the area, he created a buffer zone, but his justification for arrest was not narrowly tailored,” Holmes said.

UNC senior Kaori Sueyoshi, who was arrested at a Moral Monday protest in July 2013, said she is excited about the cases being dismissed, even though her case was settled earlier this year.

“This has given the movement some more gravity and publicity,” Sueyoshi said. “I was arrested on voting rights day as the child of two Japanese immigrants. I’m the only legal voter in my family.”

Sueyoshi said she is worried that her arrest will impact her future as a graduating senior searching for a job.

But she said she wants her voice, as the only U.S. citizen in her family, to make a statement.

“My parents appreciated that I was doing something with my rights as a citizen. I have already felt the consequences of my arrest in being turned down (for) jobs, but, more than anything, I want to stand by my beliefs in what is right.”

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