As the sun started to set on the N.C. General Assembly late Monday afternoon, dozens of North Carolina residents lit up Jones Street in Raleigh with a fiery protest that resulted in 49 arrests — several of them college students.
The planned civil disobedience protest, the third consecutive Monday demonstration led by the state’s chapter of the NAACP, drew about 200 people to the state legislature, including students, professors, doctors, lawyers and senior citizens.
UNC junior Seth Rose watched his mother Beth Silverman, a physical therapist in Durham and an active member of Durham Democratic Women, get arrested.
“She’s stronger than I am,” Rose said. “She’s feisty.”
The demonstration brought the total number of arrests at the General Assembly over the past three Mondays to almost one hundred, in addition to five students arrested May 1 during another protest.
Protestors united in favor of Medicaid expansion, workers’ rights, voting rights, gun control and increased public education funding — causes they said the Republican-led legislature does not support.
Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, said the weekly demonstrations, which he has dubbed “Moral Mondays,” will continue indefinitely.
Bryan Perlmutter, a senior at N.C. State University and a member of the N.C. Student Power Union, said the number of legislative policies being protested and the number of people protesting will continue to expand.
“I think they’ll always keep growing and growing,” he said.
Patricia Saylor, a teacher at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, said she was attending her first “Moral Mondays” protest.
“There are so many (bad legislative policies), I can’t keep up,” Saylor said. “It’s (affecting) universities, too. Our university and public education system are one thing that draws people to our state.”
More than 150 people entered the legislative building just after 6 p.m. as the Monday night legislative session convened.
Barber, Perlmutter and the nearly four dozen others arrested during previous protests were not allowed inside the legislative building, but many of them kept a rally going outside.
“It doesn’t matter if we go back, because there are still people going in!” Barber said to the audience.
The crowd in the building gathered around a fountain, chanting and singing spirituals for about 10 minutes. The session continued inside the two legislative chambers without interruption.
The police then gave protestors two minutes to leave the area before beginning to make arrests.
The 49 who remained — a diverse group that ranged from students to senior citizens — continued to sing and chant as they were handcuffed and led away.
Jeff Weaver, N.C. General Assembly police chief, said those arrested were charged with violation of building rules, failure to disperse and trespassing. None of those arrested resisted the police.
Rose said he supports the causes of the protestors, but he said he wouldn’t get himself arrested.
“I don’t know if that is the best approach,” he said. “But I definitely like the mobilization of a lot of different groups.”
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