Moral Monday: The Movement

By Jaymes Powell Jr.
Communications Specialist

It’s not just a moment, Moral Monday has become a movement.

Hundreds of civil rights leaders, workers, clergy, educators, health professionals and everyday people pledge to peacefully protest and happily go to jail to stop what many consider harsh, unprecedented legislation the North Carolina GOP has produced this year. Republicans are not bothered by the noise, they say, but the sound of a popular uprising is getting louder and louder.

The shouts will likely grow louder next week protesters say.

Disputing the Republican run legislature, groups from around the state will gather for peaceful protest and civil disobedience, leading to mass arrests – 1960’s and 70’s style every week from now until further notice. The groups believe the GOP’s behavior is so out of hand that old school tactics are called for.

The people are speaking and they’re making sure the Republicans hear it.

“I’m tired of this and it’s time for action. It’s been time for a while, but now people are getting angry about what [the Republican-led General Assembly is] doing. The laws they want? It’s unbelievable, I’m marching for the same things I did in the 60’s.  I didn’t think I’d have to do this again, but they’re dragging us backward,” 73 year-old Durham resident Barbra Ulery said as she and others cheered each arrested protester being loaded onto a police bus outside of the state Legislative Building. 

 Asked if throwback tactics harkening images of Martin Luther King Jr., Golden Frinks or Vernon Tyson marching through the Tar Heel state was the answer to Republican legislation, Ulery said surely. “It works. It worked before. I’m just sorry the Republicans are making us do it again for the same reasons. You would think some people would have learned from history.”

Monday, 49 people were arrested while marching on the Legislature as lawmakers looked on from windows, with some like Joel Ford (D-38th District) standing with the crowd. Monday brings to almost 100 people arrested in the past three weeks of protests, which are nonviolent and favored by many civil rights advocates.

The sobering cocktail of legislation pushing voter restriction, non-expansion of Medicaid, partisan judicial races, women’s rights pull backs and slashing education has pushed now hundreds of demonstrators to the General Assembly this month. The numbers of protestors and arrests will continue to expand unless the legislature or Republican Governor Pat McCrory stop the GOP’s assault on much of society, state NAACP President William Barber said Monday.

Monday, after meeting with civil rights leaders and Democrats like North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller, a group of more than 200 marched into the Legislative Building and assembled outside of both houses of the General Assembly. After being told to leave, many of the protestors were arrested, taken to the Legislature’s dining hall, held until being put onto one of two police buses and taken to jail.

Tyson, who has marched in favor of civil rights for decades and was instrumental in ending the Wilmington 10 standoff in 1972, was arrested for the first time Monday, his son Tim Tyson said. Tim Tyson, the author of the nonfiction book “Blood Done Sign My Name” which recants a 70’s lynching North Carolina and subsequent protests featuring his father, said he was happy his dad went to jail.

“I’ve never been so proud of my father. This is important; serious,” Tim Tyson said as a crowd chanted across the street from the Legislative building. Tim Tyson was arrested in the first wave of protests this year. “We’re not done here. It’s not just one issue, it’s everything the Republicans are doing right now.”

The Raleigh city police, who were courteous to protesters, will have to bring more than two arrest buses next Monday, many said as they watched Vernon Tyson being put on board.

“The Republicans are trying to take away 100 years of progress,” Renee Stackhouse, 54 of Robison County, said. “We’ve already fought for these rights – like education, like voting, like women’s rights. These issues have been decided in the court of moral opinion and [legal] courts. So why are they forcing us to do it again?”

Meanwhile, some Republicans said they notice the protest but just don’t really care about what the citizens want. They will continue pushing the angering legislation.

"They're just a disturbance. We know how they feel, and they know how we feel," Senate Rules Chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca (R- 48th District) told WRAL.” It's just a lot of strain on our law enforcement guys and gals. We know how they feel already. It's not like our heads are in the sand."

Jaymes Powell Jr. can be reached at JaymesPowellJr@NCDP.org