Republican legislators who thought the “Moral Mondays” protests in the Legislative Building were a flash in the pan might bring their sunglasses to work from now on. It appears the protesters’ little light will continue to shine.
This past Monday, somewhere between 200 and 300 people showed up to again speak and sing against the extreme actions of this Republican-run General Assembly. This time, 49 people were arrested, almost the total of the two previous demonstrations, and once again, those arrested represented a cross-section of citizens, including students, older activists, military veterans and teachers.
The scene in the legislature early Monday evening called to mind the Peter, Paul and Mary anthem of protest from some years back, part of which went, “Have you been to jail for justice, I want to shake your hand, ‘cause sitting in and lying down are ways to take a stand, have you sung a song for freedom, or marched that picket line, have you been to jail for justice, then you’re a friend of mine.”
Friends were plentiful. The Rev. William Barber, who’s been arrested a few times over the years himself, is credited with helping to organize and drive the protests, which are planned for every Monday during the legislative session. Barber, head of the state NAACP, has raised the awareness and stirred the feet and the voices of those who beg to differ with Republicans’ radical politics.
Some protesters don’t like what’s been happening to public education on the GOP watch, from budget-cutting to periodic attacks on public school teachers. Others focus on the ridiculous and cruel refusal of GOP leaders to accept more people under the Medicaid health-care program for the poor, even though the federal government would pay the cost. And then there are those protesters who believe, rightly, that cuts in unemployment benefits, while they might please the tea party devotees who now seem to drive the Republican agenda, are going to be hurtful to families and, by the way, to the state’s economy.
Lately, Republicans, through Senate President pro-tem Phil Berger, have provided more fodder with a tax “reform” plan that appears by the GOP’s own calculator to raise taxes overall on the middle class while cutting them for the wealthy. No groundswell of support for the Berger plan appears forthcoming, even from GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Republican lawmakers no doubt tell themselves that the protesters are extremists. It’s a way to justify ignoring them.
But that dismissal is a delusion. The people getting arrested in waves at the General Assembly are carrying a message from many thousands of North Carolinians. They represent not only those who need government services, but those who believe the legislature is breaking the traditions and reversing the gains of a great and enlightened state.
In the people’s house, such messengers ought not be arrested. They should be heard and heeded.