A Wake County judge said at a hearing Wednesday that an order banning protesters from the North Carolina Legislative Building is “entirely too broad.”
The Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president, and 31 other protesters were arrested May 30 at the Legislative Building during a sit-in protest over health care after they refused to clear the hallways. The protesters were charged with second degree trespassing.
A magistrate set the ban as a condition of the protesters’ release from jail. Barber said the ban kept him from entering the building in June with NAACP activists who delivered letters to state legislators.
Geeta Kapur, an attorney who challenged the ban for the N.C. NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement, said her clients have the right to be at the Legislative Building conducting business just like any lobbyist does.
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Wake County prosecutor Vanessa Curtis said protesters that day were disrupting business and received multiple warnings before being arrested. Curtis said it’s not unusual for restrictions such as bans to be placed on people.
Curtis argued the ban does not stop people from speaking to lawmakers. They can still communicate with legislators by making phone calls or writing letters and emails, she said.
“This is not about whether we agree or disagree with their policies or beliefs,” Curtis said. “We cannot ignore the rule of law.”
Wake County District Court Judge Michael Denning said the ban currently in place is too broad but that he would order restrictions of some kind. He said he would make a decision later Wednesday.