Wednesday, 25 June 2014 00:00

Thousands Host Sit-In at the North Carolina Legislature Yesterday, Leading to 15 Arrests, as the Forward Together Movement Begins New Campaign of Voter Mobilization

Written by  Moral Monday North Carolina

The Moral March to the Polls and Moral Freedom Summer to Deepen Grassroots Organizing and Voter Registration Efforts in Communities Statewide. The Forward Together Movement kicked off its Moral March to the Polls yesterday with widespread enthusiasm and a dedicated commitment to voter mobilization as thousands of people flooded the North Carolina General Assembly to hold sit-ins and plan-ins around get out the vote efforts back in their home communities.

Fifteen moral witnesses were later arrested inside the General Assembly building after the Moral Monday Sit-in, Pray-in and Plan-in for expressing their moral dissent with these devastating policies that are hurting our state's most vulnerable groups. Two pastors remained strong outside the NC Senate doors, even though they currently deal with health complications. Beside them stood Pattie Meegan, who recovered from a stroke just a few weeks ago and whose husband is in the hospital with late-stage cancer.

More than 3,500 North Carolinians rallied in Raleigh for the final Moral Monday protest before the NC General Assembly passes the 2014-2015 budget. Carrying signs, waving flags and sporting T-shirts reading things like "We Love Public Schools," and "Love Conquers Hate," they challenged this state legislature's regressive public policy agenda.

Yesterday's rally marked 60 weeks of Moral Mondays organizing and protest, including more than 120 actions statewide and over 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience. As part of its transition toward voter mobilization, the Forward Together Movement will hold a live-stream event on canvassing and voter registration to prepare people all across the state next Monday. The first Moral March to the Polls rally will take place in Winston-Salem, NC on July 7.

"This Forward Together Moral Movement has never been focused solely on Raleigh, even though that is where Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate Leader Phil Berger, Gov. Pat McCrory and their extremist allies convene to make these immoral and unjust decisions," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "This Movement has always been focused on building power in communities all across the state. For seven years, we have been putting pressure on our lawmakers from the mountains to the coast to do the right thing by their moral values and constitutional responsibilities.

"The Moral March to the Polls and Moral Freedom Summer will deepen this work," Dr. Barber continued. "Together with our North Carolina NAACP branches and our HKonJ coalition partners, we are embarking on a sustained and aggressive campaign to turn out voters and to make sure that they are educated about their rights and about the issues when they step up to the ballot box."

For the Moral Monday Sit-In, Pray-In, Stand-In, Teach-In, Plan-In, hundreds of people poured into the building, outfitted with poster-sized paper, markers and voter registration forms. They set up small workshops throughout the first and second floors, including near Senate Leader Berger's and Speaker Tillis' closed office doors.

After an hour of discussing how to take the Movement back home to their communities, the crowd reassembled in the rotunda between the NC House and Senate chambers to sing, chant, and listen to the personal testimonies of people who have been affected by these destructive public policies.

"I am here because poverty is an LGBTQ issue - health care is an LGTBQ issue," said Serena Sebring, co-director of Southerners on New Ground and one of the McCrory 11. "But more importantly, I am here because voting rights is a North Carolina issue."

The building authorities quickly moved to tamp down the protest, and hundreds complied with their request to move onto the third floor. There, they stood in silence but in solidarity with the 15 moral witnesses who refused to budge from their position outside the NC Senate door. Holding banners high that read "Public Education," "Voting Rights," and "Expand Medicaid," the group sang, chanted and testified against the extremist actions taken by this General Assembly as the building authorities began to make arrests.

Rick Rapfogel, one of the moral witnesses from Boone, NC, had to speak through another witness who could raise his voice enough to reach the third floor.

"I may have lost most of my voice to cancer," Rapfogel said, "but I am not going to lose my right to vote or my voice as a citizen of North Carolina."

When the Legislative Building police finally asked everyone to leave, the crowd began chanting, "Whose house? Our House," and "The people united will never be defeated," as the people began to march out to Bicentennial Mall. As the last of the Movement trailed through the doors to head back and mobilize their communities, the words of "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around," rose up the stairs to the third floor where the Senate and House chambers sat empty.

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