RALEIGH — The Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor disorderly conduct after protesting budget cuts during a session in the N.C. House last year.
Barber’s conviction carries no sentence, and second-degree trespassing charges were dropped.
“I see no sense in taking up a probation officer’s time for something that’s not necessary,” Wake County District Court Judge William C. Lawton said. “Hopefully, this will be a teaching moment.”
Last year, Barber and six others were arrested after chanting “Fund education, not incarceration” and “Save our children, don’t cut education” from the House gallery.
Barber was transported to the Wake County jail, where he opted to spend the night.
After leaving the courtroom, he led a prayer circle on the steps facing Fayetteville Street and vowed to fight for education funding, for health care and against Amendment One banning same-sex marriage and civil unions on the ballots Tuesday, which he repeated would add discrimination and hate to the state Constitution.
“There are days when you are found guilty in the court of men but stand innocent in the house of God,” he said.
At the time, House Speaker Thom Tillis called Barber’s actions “one of the most disruptive, disrespectful acts I’ve ever seen.”
Barber said Monday the arrest and conviction would never have happened if Tillis had agreed to meet with him, rather than holding midnight sessions in the House.
Tillis has said that he scheduled a meeting with Barber, but the NAACP leader canceled and that his protest made him less inclined to get together.
Barber said that the conviction will not hinder his activities legally or otherwise.
In March, Barber was one of 30 protesters who pleaded guilty on misdemeanor charges for disrupting Wake County school board meeting in 2010 to protest the elimination of busing for socioeconomic diversity. Barber reached a plea deal with prosecutors in which the school board charges will be dropped if he performs 40 hours of community service.
Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed to this report.
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