Conservatives in North Carolina really do not like the weekly protests in the state capitol intended to shine light on their shenanigans and shame them for their war on the working class there. But that won't stop protesters from gathering.
During the second day of the state’s 2014 legislative session, the North Carolina Legislative Services Commission, which has not met since 1999, announced anew set of regulations that overhaul building rules unchanged since 1987. Although state Republicans claim the new rules are only meant to lessen “disturbances” so lawmakers can conduct business, the regulations are sure to impact the ongoing Moral Mondays protests, a progressive grassroots movement in North Carolina that sprung up last year in opposition to a series of conservative laws passed by the North Carolina state legislature. Thousands of North Carolinians have expressed their fierce disapproval of the Republican-dominated General Assembly by protesting in and around the state Legislative Building over the past year, with more than 900 people reportedly arrested inside the building’s central rotunda for civil disobedience since April 2013.
But according to the new rules unveiled by the commission, groups are no longer allowed to “disturb, or create an imminent disturbance” at the Legislative Building, and visitors may be asked to leave if they are found to be disturbing “the General Assembly, one of its houses, or its committees, members, or staff in the performance of their duties.” Behaviors said to violate the rules include “singing, clapping, shouting, playing instruments or using sound amplification equipment,” or activities that defined many past Moral Mondays demostrations.
The rules—which were supported by a majority of Republicans but opposed by Democrats—also place limits on where protestors can gather at the General Assembly, especially on the main South entrance—the site of many previous Moral Monday protests. Groups that expect to involve between 25 and 200 people are allowed to reserve space at the South entrance, but the same location “may not be reserved for coordinated activities the person or group reasonably expects will involve 200 or more participants.” By contrast, last year’s Moral Mondays demonstrations drew crowds that numbered in the thousands.
What a bunch of cowards. They hide behind the US Constitution for Billionaire Bucks, but won't honor it for freedom of speech and assembly?
Moral Monday organizers aren't daunted by the restrictions. In fact, they're vowing to step up their activity.
But if Republican lawmakers hoped the new rules would dull the fervor of the progressive activists in North Carolina, their plans may very well backfire. Moral Mondays participants were already planning to launch a new round of protestsnext Monday at the Legislative Building before the strict building regulations were announced, and organizers say the demonstrations will continue as scheduled—possibly even strengthened by frustration over the new rules.
“On Monday, we will dramatize just how dangerous to debate in our democracy this action by [NC House Speaker Thom Tillis] and their allies could be if it is not challenged by a movement,” Barber said.
Indeed, they could be dangerous. I look forward to seeing the Moral Mondays protests grow in response to the legislature's efforts to shrink them.