Police arrested 14 people Wednesday evening, including several teachers, after they blocked a downtown intersection during a protest of Gov. Pat McCrory’s education policies.
The Organize 2020 group, sponsored by the N.C. Association of Educators, had sought to meet with McCrory after a 23-mile protest march from Durham and North Raleigh to the State Capitol.
McCrory’s staff said the governor had a scheduling conflict and could not meet with the group. The governor’s office later offered to arrange a meeting with two top McCrory aides. But when the group arrived at the Capitol building around 5 p.m., the building was locked.
That’s when the group decided to block the intersection of Morgan and Fayetteville streets. About 14 of them sat down and linked arms in the street, while dozens of others cheered and chanted from the sidewalk.
“What would be the harm in him sitting down with teachers and students and parents to talk about the state of education?” said Todd Warren, a Spanish teacher from Greensboro who was one of the protest organizers. “Obviously, we’re not getting the governor’s attention. He was last night at a fundraiser for (presidential candidate Donald) Trump, catering to the wealthiest 1 percent.”
Raleigh police loaded the protesters into two prisoner transport vans and took them to the Wake County Detention Center. The department said they will be charged with impeding the flow of traffic and resisting, delaying or obstructing law enforcement officers. A police news release said the group “declined to follow multiple directives to disperse.”
When they were booked at the Wake County Detention Center, seven protesters said they work for the Durham Public Schools, two for the Wake County Public School System, two for the Guilford County schools and one for the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. Two gave no employer.
McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said the group initially didn’t respond to an offer to meet with the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Jimmy Broughton, and senior education adviser Catherine Truitt. The group arrived after the Capitol building closed at 5 p.m., Ellis said, and Broughton and Truitt later went outside to meet the protesters.
“We found them with locked arms in the middle of a rush-hour intersection,” Ellis said. “We usually prefer not to hold meetings in the intersection of a main road.”
Last week, Organize 2020 released a report card giving McCrory “F” grades in areas such as “provided sufficient funding for public education,” “secured a living wage for our students’ families” and “protected our students from discrimination and criminalization.”
The protesters’ chants included a wide variety of causes: “Spend the surplus, expand Medicaid, repeal HB2.”
“This budget surplus is no surplus at all,” Warren said, referring to the projected $237 million surplus in this year’s budget. “That comes from the cuts to programs for poor people. It came from increased taxes on the middle class. Our students are going without. That’s why we had to do what we did.”
McCrory’s campaign sought to tie the protest to the governor’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper. The N.C. Association of Educators has endorsed Cooper.
“Not only did this demonstration inconvenience drivers, it wasted law enforcement resources during rush hour,” campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a news release. “If Roy Cooper is in charge of enforcing the law in North Carolina, why would he send his campaign surrogates to break it?”
Warren said Wednesday’s event had “absolutely nothing to do with Roy Cooper.”