As General Assembly police wrapped zip ties around the wrists of one of the Triangle’s Raging Grannies who engaged in civil disobedience on Monday to protest House Bill 2, a reporter from a German video crew shouted out to the woman before she was escorted out of the House of Representative’s office of the principal clerk.
“Can you tell our German viewers what it feels like to do what you’re doing?” the newswoman shouted beyond the police blocking media and others from getting too close to the office of the General Assembly worker who had lodged a noise complaint against Moral Monday protesters.
“It feels dignified and it feels like the right thing to do,” the protesting Grannie responded.
The rally outside the Legislative Building on Monday and the 11 arrests inside were part of a tradition started three years ago by the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP and architect of a protest movement that has attracted international media attention.
Several German news crews were at North Carolina’s hub of lawmaking a week after the flurry of lawsuits filed in federal court over the controversial HB2.
Outside the Legislative Building, in the late afternoon, before any General Assembly sessions were to begin, Capital police estimated that about 450 people gathered on Bicentennial Mall.
Much of the focus at the rally concerned the nature of HB2 as “much more than a bathroom bill” that requires people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate.
Barber has been out in the rural reaches of the state recently, trying to let people know that HB2, as it stands, prevents city and county governments from setting a minimum-wage standard for private employers and blocks a path in state court for people to bring state discrimination claims.
They took Gov. Pat McCrory to task for comments he made on Monday on “The Mark Levin Show,” complaining that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a Greensboro native who grew up in Durham, had compared the strife over bathrooms and transgender people to Jim Crow laws.
“There is absolutely no relevance between the issue of civil rights for African Americans, which went through a tremendous struggle, and the issue of how do we determine the gender of a person going into our public showers or public restrooms or public locker rooms,” McCrory said.
Barber has called for full repeal of HB2 and spoken out against any compromise proposals that leave transgender residents vulnerable to discrimination. “We know the difference between racism and homophobia ...we must all stand together,” Barber said.
Advocates of HB2 have called it a bill that protects women and children in restrooms and locker rooms from men who might pretend to be transgender for illegal motives. They also say it’s about protection of privacy rights for people who might be uncomfortable with transgender people disrobing beside them, though many locker rooms and restrooms have stalls and changing areas with privacy curtains in them.
Frank Herrmann, a U.S. correspondent for the Rheinische Post, a major German daily newspaper headquartered in Dusseldorf, and Damir Fras, a reporter with the Berliner Zeitung, a daily based in Berlin, had many questions for Barber and others at the Legislative Building on Monday.
They said many of their German readers are fascinated with American politics, especially with Donald Trump’s race for the presidency. The debate over restrooms and public facilities had them baffled.
“The bathroom section of the bill is extraordinary,” said Fras.
“You just say, “Hey, aren’t there bigger problems, bigger fish to fry,” Hermann added.