Fifty-four protesters against House Bill 2 were arrested inside the Legislative Building downtown Monday evening, and protests continued inside even after the North Carolina House and Senate opened their 2016 regular session and then promptly adjourned.
The protesters, who had gathered in a crowd of hundreds on Bicentennial Plaza south of the building, were allowed late in the afternoon to enter in groups of 100 to continue their protest inside.
About 6:30 p.m., a group of protesters entered the office of state House Speaker Tim Moore, and at least two dozen others gathered outside the door, chanting for repeal of HB2. Law enforcement officers corralled members of the media nearby.
Police began arresting some who refused to leave the area of the speaker’s office about 6:45 p.m. Eighteen were arrested then, said interim Chief Martin Brock of the General Assembly police force.
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Meanwhile, other protesters in a gallery disrupted the House with shouting as the chamber adjourned shortly after the gavel fell to open the legislature’s short session at 7 p.m.
Groups of protesters continued chanting in other parts of the building. Some protesters, when told by Brock that they would be arrested if they did not leave, chanted, “We shall not be moved.”
General Assembly police then began arresting a group who sat on the floor outside Moore’s office. Thirty-six were arrested then, bringing the day’s total to 54, Brock said. They were charged with second-degree trespassing and violating building rules.
The building was cleared shortly before 9 p.m.
The anti-HB2 rally, part of a day of protests in downtown Raleigh for and against the law, brought together a variety of organizations and protesters calling for full repeal of the law, which they say creates more public safety problems than it prevents.
Throughout the day, the NAACP and others dropped off petitions for the governor and others, calling for repeal of HB2.
Dozens who said they were willing to risk arrest in the demonstration heard from lawyers shortly before the 3 p.m. rally at Bicentennial Mall. The lawyers told them what to do if arrested.
It was unclear late in the afternoon whether General Assembly police or Capitol police planned to issue citations or arrest protesters.
In 2013, after Republicans had gained control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, weekly protests under the banner of the so-called Moral Monday movement led to 1,000 arrests that clogged up the Wake County courts.
On Monday, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she had talked with police about strategies they could use if sit-ins and other protests warranted police intervention.
Efforts to reach Martin Brock, acting legislative chief, have been unsuccessful.
Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and leader of the weekly protest movement, rallied loud applause at the outdoor gathering as he called HB 2, “Hate Bill 2.”
Shortly after 4 p.m, the protesters began walking into the legislative building, in groups of 100 at a time, and went to the second floor to hold teach-ins outside the offices of Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger.
John Chase, a retired nurse from Durham, waited toward the back of the line, a blue ribbon for justice wrapped around his upper arm.
People in the back were among those willing to risk arrest to demonstrate their opposition to the law.
Chase, who has never been arrested, said the law requires transgender men who have not changed their birth certificates – people who often have facial hair and identify as male – to use the women’s restroom.
“This bill is ultimately about hate,” Chase said.
A rally earlier in the day on the opposite side of the building, on Halifax Mall, drew a large crowd of HB2 supporters.
Berger has said he does not plan to repeal HB2, although Gov. Pat McCrory has talked about pushing for tweaks and many Democratic lawmakers are calling for a full overturn of a law that has sparked a backlash of boycotts, business losses and attention on North Carolina.
The Rev. Debora Hopkins, a transgender woman from Charlotte, spoke at the rally and invited McCrory to join her in the bathroom.
Barber rallied protesters inside the Legislative Building, reminding them about other parts of the law that block many discrimination lawsuits in state court and prohibit local governments from adopting ordinances that set minimum wage higher than the state level, which is now $7.25 an hour.
Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948
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