As the crowd gathered Monday evening in the rotunda between the House and Senate chambers of the N.C. General Assembly, the anthem We Shall Overcome was sung with gusto. That was fitting, as civil disobedience was a hallmark of the civil rights movement. Watching the demonstrators being arrested and led to a bus that would take them to jail, it was impossible not to admire their gumption.
Mothers left toddlers with spouses. Older demonstrators moved slowly and carefully. Some undoubtedly had been in demonstrations in their youth. And youth ... yes, some of those arrested were young people. They were cheered and serenaded. Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. Righteous speakers shouted, Let justice roll down!
And besides those getting arrested inside the building, hundreds more gathered on the mall outside the Legislative Office Building. Yes, the demonstrators were civil, but disobedient, and they paid the price, with 151 of them being arrested. The charges were violating building rules, failure to disperse and trespassing. All protesters were out of jail before sunup, but its no small thing to be arrested and processed and have ones hands bound.
That so many would appear in this latest edition of Moral Monday demonstrations ought to at least get more than passing attention from the Republican lawmakers whose legislative actions have prompted the protests. But in this age of Republican rule, those in power apparently couldnt care less. And Gov. Pat McCrory drew the line at civil disobedience. He said, We should not give credence to unlawful demonstrations. So he repudiates the unlawful actions of civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s?
GOP lawmakers have charged on with an agenda that has laid waste to constructive policies, cut unemployment benefits at a time when that will hurt the states economy and its people, passed on expanding Medicaid care for lower-income families, cut public education, moved toward giving public money to private schools through vouchers and embraced a Voter ID law to curb potential Democratic votes. One Republican even moved toward establishing a state religion.
Asked about the demonstrators, Greensboro Republican Rep. John Blust offered a view that, though doubtless shared by some of his colleagues, was insulting to demonstrators and unworthy of any elected official. I think of it, Blust said, like Carolina playing at Duke. Im not going to let the Cameron Crazies throw off my game.
Had Blust, instead of an attempt at cleverness, bothered to pay attention, hed have seen North Carolina, all of it, represented among those in the rotunda, from affluent professionals to blue-collar workers to stay-at-home parents. Hed have seen, yes, some of his own constituents from the Triad.
If anything, the sight of the demonstrators who clearly represented all ages, all races, all income levels and all professions was inspirational. It showed that people are passionate about their beliefs and their causes and also that they care about others. At a time when entirely too many people are complacent and uninterested in the plights of those outside their own circles, it was frankly moving to see so many showing a willingness to stand up for others less fortunate than they.
These demonstrations have been building, and signs are that they will continue to do so. The Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, has raised awareness of the GOPs foolhardy plans and actions, but this movement, and a movement it is, has now gone beyond an individual or one group.
As the cross-section of demonstrators proved, this is about all of North Carolina.