Just blocks away from the Governors Mansion on Blount Street, thousands of North Carolinians ... yes, North Carolinians ... gathered on government grounds near the Legislative Building and inside that building to make known their outrage at the politics of retreat and revenge practiced by Republican lawmakers.
But despite ever-expanding protests, with at least 3,000 people showing up for the latest Moral Monday this week, Gov. Pat McCrory acts as if theyre not even there. Of course, he has time to attend a big money meeting set for Thursday and Friday and sponsored by a nonprofit group friendly to him. He wants to make sure business leaders and big donors are kept current with whats doing on Jones Street.
One wonders if over dinner at the Grandover Resort near Greensboro hell happen to mention that thousands North Carolinians are coming to the General Assembly on Mondays and that nearly 600 of them have been arrested, neither of those things being easy to do.
Probably not. Republicans in charge at the General Assembly are choosing to keep their blinders on, or, in some cases, just insult the protesters. GOP Sen. Thom Goolsby of Wilmington dubbed the protests led by the state NAACP Moron Monday.
Claims that the protesters were outsiders were nixed by researchers from UNC-Chapel Hill who showed that only a tiny percentage were not from North Carolina and that those who were there were a cross-section of the state in terms of race, gender and age.
In other words, Moral Mondays are driven by North Carolinians, citizens of the state, and by the way, constituents of Gov. McCrory and the elected lawmakers.
Fourth District U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat, recognizes that. He was in attendance Monday, a day focused on the unemployed who as a result of action by GOP lawmakers, are about to lose their extended unemployment benefits on July 1. (The benefits could have been saved through years end, but GOP leaders acted to see that they would be cut off.) Said Price, This is beyond politics as usual. Its so extreme, so drastic and so threatening to so many people.
The congressman noted that when tea party elements gained control in Congress, they didnt have unchecked power. Here in Raleigh, that power has been used to cut unemployment money, curb Medicaid rolls for poor people, dismantle environmental laws and roll back the states progress on many social services fronts. Even public school teachers havent been spared.
A conservative group tied to Art Pope, McCrorys budget director and a wealthy sponsor of such groups, took to posting pictures and information about those protesters who have been arrested.
Criticisms of protesters, whove gone to considerable trouble and discomfort to make their feelings known in a civilized and peaceful way, have been heard in other times and places.
The outside agitator label, the arrows fired about protesters being crackpots and malcontents and costing the government a lot of money for police services are old hat. They were used often in the 1950s and 60s during civil rights marches in the South. And they were invoked often by local, state and federal government officials in the days of protests against the war in Vietnam.
In the cases of both those causes, the protesters were proved to be correct and their often-vehement critics in goverment were proved wrong. That sounds about right this time, too.