Facing what they called an "avalanche" of right-wing legislation this session, 17 activists with the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NC-NAACP) gathered at the state assembly's doors on Monday and joined hands in prayer, then refused to leave.
The group, eight of them ministers according to an NC-NAACP advisory, held vigil to protest the Republican-dominated legislature's progress on cutting unemployment benefits, cutting taxes for the wealthy while increasing taxes on the poor, rejecting the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, and moving to pass a restrictive voter ID law that will dial down turnout among minorities, the elderly and students.
“The decision to engage in civil disobedience is not one we take lightly,” Rev. William Barber, NC-NAACP's president, said in prepared text. “But the extremists are acting like the George Wallaces of the 21st century. They are pursuing a cruel, unusual and unconstitutional agenda reminiscent of the Old South. What happens in North Carolina does not stay in North Carolina. It has national implications. North Carolina is ground zero in a national struggle to defend democracy for all."
The group says the arrests are just the beginning of their campaign of civil disobedience, and more are prepared to get arrested until the legislature stops adopting measures that harm poor and minority communities.
"We call on all people of good will to examine the tools of the non-violent moral movement to expose the hurtful, immoral, unconstitutional policies being discussed and passed in the Peoples House," an open letter (PDF) published on the NC-NAACP's website explains. "These policies are similar to those by repressive regimes in other countries, who see their own citizens as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. If we are truly moral leaders, we must expose with our words and deeds these shameful attacks on the poor and working people of North Carolina."
“This much is clear: the Republican-led legislature is standing in the way of progress and passing laws that violate fundamental constitutional rights," Barber's prepared statement concluded. "As leaders of moral conscience, we must draw the line somewhere. That is what this direct action is all about."
This video is from WRAL-TV, aired Monday, April 29, 2013.