More than 80 arrested at NC NAACP demonstration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RALEIGH (AP) — More than 80 clergy members and activists were arrested Monday during the NAACP’s most recent protest of the Republican-led legislature’s conservative policies. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers who control state government attacked the near-weekly demonstrations as the work of outside groups.
While some religious leaders delivered a nonpartisan message against policies they said would contribute to poverty, Republicans alleged that outside groups were trying to keep Democrats politically relevant after back-to-back election losses.
The 84 arrests on Monday brought to nearly 400 the number of protesters who have left the legislative building in police bindings after gathering to critique state policies, chant and pray outside the Senate chambers.
Among those arrested was Tim Funk, a veteran Charlotte Observer religion reporter who was covering the protests for the state’s largest newspaper. While Observer Managing Editor Cheryl Carpenter wrote in an email that Funk was wearing credentials and there “solely to do his job as a news reporter,” police said Funk had ignored an order to disperse.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver said Funk will face the same charges as protesters, which include trespassing, failure to disperse and violating building rules. The Observer had contacted its attorney, Carpenter said.
The demonstrations have drawn national media attention, as well as the interest of progressive-leaning groups such as Organizing for America and the Service Employees International Union.
Monday’s demonstrations came days after state bishops from five major Christian denominations issued a statement supporting the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s “Moral Mondays” and condemning decisions from Republican leaders to forego Medicaid expansion that would be mostly funded with federal dollars, cut unemployment benefits and pursue tax reform that raises sales taxes.
Robert Daniels, senior pastor at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, said he came to let legislators know that policies restricting voting, cutting the number of teacher assistants and rejecting expansion of health care to the poor and disabled aren’t going unnoticed.
“I want them to know that justice will win,” he said. “God will show his hand that he’s for the poor.”
Republicans have started pushing back.
Gov. Pat McCrory blasted the protesters at a state party convention, and Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, referred to the weekly protests as “Moron Mondays” in an op-ed piece.
Republicans seized control of the legislature in the 2010 elections, the first time in more than a century. They built supermajorities in 2012 and launched McCrory to victory. Since gaining power, Republicans have pursued a conservative makeover after decades of Democratic dominance.
McCrory compared the situation in North Carolina to that of Wisconsin under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who faced massive protests after pushing through a law ending collective bargaining for most state workers.
“(Outside groups) are going to come in and try to change the subject. And I’m not going to let them. I’m going to concentrate on the economy, education and government efficiency,” he said.
McCrory’s statements didn’t sit well with state Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland.
“We’re not outsiders. We’re from North Carolina,” he said to applause from the hundreds of people who came for a rally before the arrests.
Claude Pope Jr., the newly elected state Republican party chairman, said in an interview Monday that he sees the NAACP as a stand-in for a Democratic party in “disarray.” Pope is a distant cousin of state budget director Art Pope, a lightning rod for many of the protesters who oppose his conservative vision for the state.
“They just have no credibility anymore, so the only way they can get their message out is to bring people from out of state, stir them up and get arrested,” Pope Jr. said.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., told the crowd at Monday’s rally that Republican lawmakers are hoping to serve as a model of conservative reform that ignores society’s most vulnerable.
“They say that the role of government is not to protect the least of these in our society,” he said. “They say in a free-market society you are on your own. Is this who we are?”