More than 300 protesters gathered in parts of downtown Raleigh today after the N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 2 late Wednesday night — which voided LGBT non-discrimination policies statewide.
The bill was proposed during a special session after the Charlotte City Council voted in February to expand its non-discrimination ordinance and allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.
Legislators argued undoing such protections was for the protection of women and families.
Several groups including Equality N.C., the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and the Black Lives Matter Coalition of North Carolina held rallies simultaneously at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh and across the street from the governor’s mansion.
Several protesters were arrested for blocking the street at the mansion after police asked them to return to the sidewalks. The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported there were at least five arrested.
Jim Sughrue, a spokesperson for the Raleigh police department, said the department was prepared to do whatever they could to ensure people could safely express their opinions.
He said Raleigh, as the state capital, is well-equipped to handle these types of events and large crowds.
Social media erupted after Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law, sparking the action in Raleigh.
“We need to hold people who are representing us in our districts and our counties accountable because local legislation is really important,” said UNC junior Sophia Oliverio, who attended the protest.
She said she came to show her support for the LGBT community and her disappointment with the state legislature.
Ellie Teller, a UNC sophomore also in attendance, said the General Assembly’s views on LGBT rights and non-discrimination policies are antiquated.
“The idea that they thought they could pass this bill without a people’s vote, without any input, (it) really restricted us as North Carolina citizens to prevent this from happening,” she said.
UNC student body president-elect Bradley Opere also traveled to Raleigh to participate in the rallies and offer his support.
“I just want every student in the LGBT community to know that student government deeply cares about them, and to the best of our ability we will stand up with any student who feels unsafe in any way,” he said.
He said UNC’s student government is committed to protecting the entire student body, and he was disappointed they could not do more to prevent the bill’s passing.
“The bill is not something we support at all,” Opere said.
Cason Whitcomb, a UNC junior protesting at the governor’s mansion, said it is difficult to imagine a bill of this nature being passed in her home state.
“This bill directly affects me and people I love,” she said. “I think it’s absurd and hateful.”
But Oliverio said she thinks young people are growing more dissatisfied and have become more passionate about the political system.
“It will be important to see if that actually translates into voting in November,” she said.
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