11 Protesters Arrested Yesterday for Sit In at Gov. McCrory's Office
NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement Call on Governor and Legislative Allies to Repent, Repeal and Restore
People from all across North Carolina rallied at the General Assembly yesterday for the latest Moral Monday protest of harmful legislation passed last year by Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature. Despite the legislature locking the doors in an attempt to keep petitioners out, a group of 11 people - everyday North Carolinians impacted by a lack of heath care access and environmentally polluting policies - staged a sit-in at the governor's office.
The 'McCrory 11' were arrested and charged with second-degree trespassing around 7 pm Monday after refusing to leave until McCrory agreed to meet with them about the impact of his policies on the health of the land and people of North Carolina.
Yesterday's Moral Monday went on despite the Senate's decision to hold a midnight session on Friday, allowing them to avoid returning to the General Assembly until Wednesday and miss the demonstration. The group changed plans by instead focusing on the governor, to whom they also delivered a letter calling on him to repeal the extreme policies; repent for the impact they are currently having on North Carolina's poor and working class and to restore a legislative commitment to governing for the betterment of the state.
"Speaker Tillis and Senate Leader Berger knew we were coming, and they locked the doors to the General Assembly building to prevent us from coming in," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "But we would not be moved from our purpose - calling upon them and Gov. McCrory to repeal these disastrous policies that are hurting the very people God loves - the sick, the poor, the women and children, the elderly, the least of these. Our eleven moral witnesses would not be moved from their attempts to petition the governor directly. If we expand Medicaid in our state, we would save 2,800 lives. If we cleaned up coal ash and blocked fracking in our state, we would save lives. That is what this moral witness today was about. To our governor and our state lawmakers, we say: if you are going to engage in premeditated political ideology that hurts the least of these, then we will give no quarter. These are matters of life and death, and the blood will be on their hands."
Other speakers illuminated the damage inflicted by various policies, including a new bill passed last week in the House and Senate to end North Carolina's moratorium on fracking, along with the current denial of health care access to 500,000 North Carolinians because of the refusal to expand Medicaid.
"These legislators are setting us up for a perfect storm of disasters while they simultaneously knock down our protections," said the NC Environmental Justice Network's John Wagner, of the bill to rapidly expand the polluting business of shale gas mining, or fracking, along with other environmentally damaging policies. "Our legislators weakened local landfill laws and regulations last year, right before they planned to flood our communities with toxic fracking landfills. We are facing terribly hard times imposed by cruel and blatantly immoral legislation, but together - and it has to be together - we have to fight."
"Refusing to expand Medicaid has forced several hospitals in North Carolina onto life support," said Nicole Dozier, assistant project director with the Health Access Project at the NC Justice Center. "Hospitals in expansion states have already seen big increases in the numbers of insured patients they see and big decreases in their shares of uninsured patients... I'm here today with a caution to the governor and the legislature: In your race to win power, don't lose your soul. Expand Medicaid now."
"Governor McCrory, Speaker Tillis and Senator Berger's refusal to accept federal dollars to pay for the care of the uninsured is not rational, is fiscally irresponsible and lacks moral standing," said former Congresswoman Eva Clayton, who made the economic case for Medicaid expansion. "This is especially difficult to understand given North Carolina's current budget shortfall."
Speakers also lifted up the devastation caused by the Dan River coal ash spill earlier this year, in which Duke Energy spilled tons of toxic coal ash into a river in Eden, NC - disproportionately affecting the poor and communities of color.
"The quality of the air, water and land - and most importantly, the quality of life for North Carolina's people - is in jeopardy," said Connie Leeper, lead organizer for the environmental nonprofit NC WARN, who also called on legislators to hold Duke Energy accountable with a substantial plan for cleaning up coal ash.
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church and Rev. Joe Hoffman of Asheville's First Congregtional United Church of Christ closed the rally by speaking to the moral mandate that motivates the Forward Together Movement to continue its campaign against these extreme policies in our state.
"We are not the kind of people that shrink back when times get rough," Dr. Spearman told the assembled. "Because of the moral conviction you bring, you are presently the best thing going for the State of North Carolina. I heard somewhere recently that those who appear to be in power will never have ALL the power. There will always be a residual power, an unconsumed, unused, surplus power in community enabling us to shift the center of political gravity and further bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice."
In addition to delivering a letter to Gov. McCrory calling on him to "Repeal, Repent and Restore," protesters delivered similar letters to Speaker Tillis and Senator Berger yesterday, leaving them wedged under and around the General Assembly's locked doors. The Forward Together Moral Movement vowed to return the General Assembly every week until their demands are met.
The letter delivered to Gov. McCrory's office can be accessed HERE.
The letter to Speaker Tillis and Senate Leader Berger that the Forward Together Movement left wedged under the doors to the General Assembly today can be accessed HERE.
The list of the 'McCrory 11' moral witnesses includes:
1. Jodi Lasseter
2. Serena Sebring Wadlington
3. James Tyson
4. Manju Rajendran
5. Justin Miller
6. Rakhee Devasthali
7. Deborah Ferruccio
8. Colin Miller
9. Kriti Sharma
10. Marie Garlock
11. Sedrick Harris
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.