As I sat in the holding cells and was marched in chains to the processing area of the Hammond Road Detention Center on June 10, I had the honor of sharing experiences with many men and women who had marched for justice 50 years before. None of us thought we’d be in jail so much later in our lives for the same reasons. Those victories of the 1960s made our Moral Monday arrests both unlawful and reprehensible.
People object to the “Moral Monday” terminology, somewhat rightly pointing out that it is divisive, accusing the governor, those driving the General Assembly and their supporters of immorality. But what should fighting for the rights of the poor, voters, women, minorities (including LGBT citizens), our children, the unemployed and other North Carolinians without a political voice be called?
People have legitimately complained that the Moral Monday protests limited access to legislators for the lobbyists who defend the civil rights of the people of North Carolina, giving access only to those special interest groups that provide financial support to the politicians. Yes, the Moral Monday demonstrations were used as an excuse to further limit access to the General Assembly, but what other options did we, the people of North Carolina, have to be heard?
I asked that question many times without answer. Appointment requests were met with delays well beyond critical votes. Public comment on bills was either restricted or totally thwarted. Standing by and watching the carnage was not an acceptable option.
Many brave men and women marched for justice in the 1960s and won that war – opening the eyes of all who would see to the inalienable fact that all men and women are equal under the law. Today, we still march for justice to recognize the fact that sexual orientation is no more just a reason to deny legal equality than race or gender. After all, the lesson of the 1960s was that all men and women are equal under the law.
But now we march for so much more! The governor and the N.C. General Assembly have ignored the lessons learned. To ignore lessons already learned and to so blatantly ignore justice is not just injustice, it is immorality.
They have used the political abuses of the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly to redefine political representation as a saleable commodity, reserved for those able and willing to pay. Protests against what was being done were totally ignored or buried until too late to make a difference in lawmakers’ calendars. Public comment on bills was not allowed, whether by deception (changing a bill that had already received public comment to a totally different bill) or by blatantly ending comments over the objections of fellow (but politically opposed) lawmakers and the public waiting to comment.
Even as nearly 1,000 North Carolina residents have suffered the indignities of arrest and tens of thousands of North Carolinians have marched in their support, McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly continue to falsely claim that we are just the same left-wing, outsider liberals. We just want to be heard. We just want our representatives to represent the interests and to protect the rights of every North Carolinian. What can their refusal to listen, even at the tremendous cost of arresting and prosecuting nearly 1,000 people, be called other than immoral?
We do not want cookies; we want the attention of McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger. We have and will continue to ask nicely. In the United States and in North Carolina, that is not a prosecutable offense.
I encourage all to participate in the Moral March on Raleigh on Saturday. The vast majority of us will be North Carolina residents these men were elected to serve.
L.F. Eason of Cary is a retired state employee.