Protesters, like Gov. McCrory, play baseball on Capitol lawn

pseligson@newsobserver.comJune 13, 2013 

— It’s not a stadium, but the State Capitol sure is seeing its share of baseball this week.

It all began Monday when Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t meet with a group of protesters as they delivered petitions against education funding cuts to the governor’s Capitol office. His staff said he was at a meeting lasting until 5 p.m. that day. But at 4:42 p.m., he was photographed on the Capitol lawn throwing a baseball.

After complaints from the protesters, the governor’s office released a statement Tuesday saying he was “taking the advice of first lady Michelle Obama” to “get some exercise” each day.

Then on Wednesday, McCrory was featured in a video where he said he had caught baseball fever thanks to the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels playing in the College World Series.

The protesters came back to the Capitol lawn Thursday morning to toss baseballs and decry the governor’s lack of response to Monday’s petitions.

Chanting “hey batter batter, public schools matter,” about 30 people, including children, approached the steps of the Capitol and left the baseballs for McCrory. Police officers in the building delivered them to his office, but he was not there.

Gerrick Brenner, executive director of the group Progress NC, helped organize Thursday’s event because he said protestors were upset by the governor’s actions on Monday.

“He was either completely disengaged or he was dismissive,” Brenner said.

Monday’s protest also gathered children – they used red wagons to help deliver the petitions, which organizers said had more than 16,000 signatures protesting education cuts.

“That was an exercise in democracy, civic engagement, dialogue, and he did something which ends up looking cynical and dismissive,” Brenner said.

Asked for comment Thursday, McCrory’s office did not address the protesters’ message.

“Today’s ‘flash mob’ at the Capitol was orchestrated by a liberal advocacy group, run by Gerrick Brenner, a former ABC 11 reporter. Because of the political nature of this ‘flash mob,’ we would like to refer you to the North Carolina Republican Party,” said Kim Genardo, McCrory’s communications director, in a written statement.

The Republican Party released a statement where chairman Claude Pope criticized Progress NC for using children in its events.

“They harassed Gov. McCrory with silly and childish antics for many months on the campaign trail in support of the failed policies of Beverly Perdue,” Pope said in the statement. “Now that these failed policies are being addressed ... these same partisan stunts are back, and it’s shameful that now they are stooping to the new low of using children.”

Alexander Wade, a rising sixth-grader at Martin Middle School in Raleigh, participated in Thursday’s protest and helped place the baseballs on the Capitol steps. He said his mom is a teacher and that he wants McCrory to listen to what they’re saying.

“We want kids to get a good education,” Alexander said.

Seligson: 919-829-8983

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