The N.C. NAACP-led protests have been taking place for the last two years, both within and around the state legislature in Raleigh. Protesters include people of all ages and backgrounds — seniors fighting for Medicaid expansion alongside children younger than 10 calling for better public education.
The weekly protests started in 2013. Hundreds of protestors were arrested that first year, including students and local government officials.
The organization said the protests will continue this summer depending on how the state legislature approaches key issues, such as the voter ID law. If state lawmakers do not act in accordance with the desired outcomes of the NAACP, then the protests will continue.
During his closing remarks at the Historic Thousands on Jones Street rally in February, the Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. chapter of the NAACP, announced that the Easter holiday was the deadline for the N.C. General Assembly to make progress on certain issues.
“(If) they keep crucifying our children’s education and crucifying minimum wage and crucifying voting rights, then we promise this state that in the season of Pentecost, the defibrillators will come out again, and we will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience,” Barber said.
Students and faculty have been among the Moral Monday protestors arrested during demonstrations of civil disobedience. Duke history professor William Chafe is one of them.
He said the arrests were undeserved, and the protesters are simply exercising their right to free speech.
“It’s a very simple process of expressing yourself in a form of speech, which is to carry a sign and sing a song and to do so without interrupting the legislature but within the legislative building,” Chafe said. “Frankly, it was a fairly stupid move on the part of the police to say that that was illegal and unconstitutional.”
The legislative building’s rules have been changed this year, affecting the time and manner in which protests can occur and potentially resulting in more arrests.
The updated rules say protest areas must be marked and cannot block the entry ways to the chambers, the chapel and the legislative services office.
Demonstrators can’t block elevators or photocopiers.
UNC senior Shauna Rust, co-president of the Campus Y, said she participates in the protests to rally against voting restrictions and other laws that she says discriminate against minority groups.
“There’s so many issues that are really important ... especially for students and just people in general in North Carolina right now,” Rust said.
“But last year I was specifically focused on voting rights, the new voter ID law that would really impact a lot of university students in North Carolina and also people of color and working people in the state.”
Rust said Moral Mondays provide a way to get large groups of people together to show solidarity in support of certain issues.
“It really sends a powerful message,” she said. “You can go and individually meet with legislators, but I feel like it’s always more powerful and really sends a message when you have such a large amount of people show up in force and support of a lot of different issues that they’re really passionate about.”