More than 150 people engaged in civil disobedience were arrested at the North Carolina statehouse on Monday, at the latest of a series of protests against aggressive legislative action by state Republican leaders.
The weekly protests, known as “Moral Mondays,” began in late April as a response to the North Carolina GOP’s efforts to cut social programs, education resources, and change voting laws. After Pat McCrory was elected governor in 2012, conservative Republicans have held a monopoly on power in the state and have pushed their agenda through, outraging a broad coalition of North Carolinians that includes clergy, civil rights activists and residents.
Hundreds of activists have risked arrest during the demonstrations, and more than 1,600 people attended the most recent Moral Monday protests. Melissa Harris-Perry traveled to Raleigh and attended the most recent protest. There, she interviewed activists such as Carol Teal, who said her son would have died without health care benefits Republicans are trying to cut. “This is my state and our state and I don’t like the direction that they’re taking us on so many levels,” Teal said. “I’ve got to do something other than just sit back and watch this train wreck.”
As state Representative Garland Pierce said on Harris-Perry’s eponymous show Saturday, “a lot the public is not aware of what is going on in Raleigh,” and that protesters and legislators have a responsibility “to keep the public aware of what is going on.” More than 300 people have been arrested since the protests began, and activists have also announced they will begin “Witness Wednesday” protests.
North Carolina has a long history of civil disobedience and protest, and activists have said they will continue to demonstrate at the Capitol building. Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, pointed to the state’s long progressive streak and worried that GOP success would be a dangerous bellwether for the rest of the region. “When North Carolina goes backward, it rains despair on the rest of the South,” he said.