State Politics

‘Air horn orchestra’ seeks McCrory’s attention on House Bill 2

‘Air horn orchestra’ seeks McCrory’s attention on House Bill 2

VIDEO: About 100 people made unpleasant sounds outside governor’s mansion in Raleigh, N.C. to protest HB2 Wednesday evening, April 13, 2016. Organizers said it’s a form of ‘performance art.'
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VIDEO: About 100 people made unpleasant sounds outside governor’s mansion in Raleigh, N.C. to protest HB2 Wednesday evening, April 13, 2016. Organizers said it’s a form of ‘performance art.'

Protesters increased the level of noise surrounding the state’s new LGBT law Wednesday evening by setting off dozens of air horns at the governor’s mansion.

About 100 opponents of House Bill 2 gathered, many of them wearing black T-shirts that said “Can you hear us now, Pat?” They stood on two sides of Gov. Pat McCrory’s home and set off a cacophony for about 10 minutes before the air horns ran out of steam.

While most protesters brought air horns, one man played a trumpet and another played a penny whistle. A single supporter of the law stood silently in the middle of the ruckus holding a sign that criticized gay people.

Organizers Grayson Haver Currin and Tina Haver Currin, writers who live in the adjacent Oakwood neighborhood, said they came up with the idea as “performance art.”

“Tina and I both listen to a lot of heavy metal and weird music,” Grayson Currin said. “For a few years, I’ve been thinking about ways to do performance art at the governor’s mansion.”

He said the quirky approach to protesting is designed to engage a younger crowd than the NAACP’s “Moral Monday” rallies.

“A lot of young people in this state feel like they don’t have a voice,” Currin said.

Recent polls have found that voters between ages 18 and 34 are more likely than older voters to support repealing the law, which revokes local nondiscrimination ordinances and replaces them with a statewide nondiscrimination law that doesn’t include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories.

Wednesday’s air horn protest also drew about a dozen Raleigh and State Capitol police officers, but they did not tell the group to quiet down. Organizers said that police contacted them Tuesday and were “very supportive” as long as the noise stayed across the street from the governor’s mansion.

“The cops have been really nice,” Tina Haver Currin told the group before the blasts began. “Don’t do anything to jeopardize our relationship with them. We are not trying to get arrested here.”

Currin came armed with a copy of the city of Raleigh’s noise ordinance, which doesn’t address air horns but does ban “sound magnifying devices” as well as gongs, sirens and steam whistles.

It was unclear whether McCrory was at home during the event, although he had been there earlier Wednesday. Spokesmen for the governor’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether McCrory heard the air horns.

N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse dismissed the protesters’ tactics and pointed to House Bill 2’s best-known provision, which overturned a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.

“All we are hearing from these professional protesters is noise,” Woodhouse said. “Grown men don’t belong in girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms, period – no matter what these blowhards say.”

Grayson Currin said he plans to continue the protests every Wednesday evening and hopes to draw a larger crowd next week.

“We’d love to surround all four sides” of the governor’s mansion, he said.

Progress NC Action, a liberal advocacy group, is asking House Bill 2 opponents to donate $5 so it can purchase more air horns.

“We’re teaming up with local activists in Raleigh to make a statement that McCrory can’t ignore: an air horn orchestra,” the group’s website said.

North Carolina repealed HB2 in 2017 but left intact some of its provisions. But with Charlotte’s reputation tainted, the city is still paying to market itself to visitors.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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