CBS Charlotte, June 3, 2013
More than 100 people were arrested Monday at the largest demonstration yet of the North Carolina NAACP’s weeks-long protest of the conservative policies of the Republican-led General Assembly.
Police estimated that roughly 1,000 people attended a rally late Monday afternoon behind the Legislative Building on Halifax Mall. Hundreds then entered the building. Upwards of 150 people were arrested outside the doors to the state Senate chambers, where demonstrators chanted, sang and delivered speeches decrying what they called a regressive agenda that neglects the poor.
Activist groups estimated the crowd at about 1,600.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been holding weekly protests in Raleigh since mid-April, and what started with 17 arrests and tens of supporters back then has grown every week, bringing the total number of arrests to nearly 300 after five weeks of protests.
Protesters have been seeking to call attention to the rightward shift of the state legislature, which was dominated for decades by moderate Democrats.
In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans captured both chambers of the legislature for the first time in more than 100 years. They’ve since built veto-proof majorities and taken control of the governor’s mansion while lawmakers have pushed a conservative agenda on social programs, criminal justice, taxes, education, voting rights and other areas.
Darren Hunicutt, 33, an accountant from Chapel Hill, said he brought his wife and 8-year-old twin boys to the demonstrations because he believes decisions to block a Medicaid expansion, cut the number of teacher assistants, limit eligibility for pre-kindergarten and expand sales taxes go too far.
“The Republicans have taken a progressive state that prioritizes education for young people, prioritizes economic justice, prioritizes access to health care and basically in the last six to 12 months done a complete 180,” he said.
Those arrested have been charged with second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse and violations of building rules. The NAACP chapter president, the Rev. William Barber, has said his group is researching challenges to those arrests based in part on constitutional provisions that say citizens have a right to “instruct” their legislators.
Barber is among those arrested in the first wave of protests headed to court in late June.