If you were to have told me when I first came to UNC that in a few years I would find myself in handcuffs, I would have called you crazy.
I say this to stress that the now over a hundred North Carolinians who have made the decision to engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience have not made this decision lightly.
Yet as many continue to join the growing protests led by the North Carolina NAACP, on what are now being called “Moral Mondays,” many of us feel as though we have been left no other choice.
On May 1, celebrated globally as International Workers’ Day, hundreds of students from across North Carolina took to the streets during an action organized by the North Carolina Student Power Union.
During this action I, along with four other students, sat in the middle of Jones Street, in front of the legislative building, with a banner reading, “We Demand a Future.”
We used this language to highlight the ways in which students and youth across the state are being denied opportunity and a civic voice by those currently in power.
Eventually, the five of us were arrested for attempting to go inside the legislative building.
For those of us choosing this path of resistance, these protests are not out of a desire for chaos. These right-wing policies will dramatically hurt people’s lives. As many of those being arrested will tell you, these actions are not about us.
We are choosing to be arrested for the 8,400 students who will lose financial aid if the hundreds of millions of proposed budget cuts to the UNC system are passed.
We are choosing to be arrested for the 500,000 low-income North Carolinians who will lose health care, for the 170,000 jobless North Carolinians who will lose benefits, for the more than 500,000 North Carolinians who could be disenfranchised if a voter ID bill is passed.
We are choosing to be arrested for the workers who are facing attacks on their rights to organize and poor North Carolinians who will face an even harsher reality.
For those who question these tactics, or who tell us to simply “wait” until the next election, I urge you to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail:” “We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”
The urgency is real. The harm done in this one legislative session could have consequences for generations.
If I learned anything while at UNC, it is that there are times when silence, when inactivity is not an option.
We call on all North Carolinians of conscience to join these growing protests. Together, our collective voices are too powerful to ignore.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.