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'Mega Moral Monday' results in mass arrests

Protesters petition the NC legislature Monday evening through non violent civil disobedience.

RALEIGH—Swarms of people gathered outside of the North Carolina state legislature Monday afternoon in a protest that concluded with the most arrests since the movement began in late April.

Known as “Mega Moral Monday” for its largest crowd yet, over 1,000 people gathered in the sweltering heat behind the Legislative Building on Halifax Mall to protest a wide array of bills being proposed by the Republican-led General Assembly. Upwards of a hundred people entered the Legislative Building, and police used two 50-passenger buses to shuttle those arrested to Wake County Jail. Supporters of the movement who chose not to go inside encircled the perimeter of the building to show support for the movement. 

“No one is coming up here for fun. No one likes being resisted with handcuffs,” NAACP President Rev. William Barber said. “But we believe we have a constitutional right, Article 1 Section 12, to instruct our legislature. And we are doing that publicly.”

The movement began Apr. 29, but ended only in thirty arrests. The protests Monday ended with around 150 arrests, with police taking almost two hours to completely arrest all of the protesters inside the building. This led to a total of 300 arrests since the start of the protests.

The civil disobedience campaigns will continue throughout the month of June.

Among those who attended the protest was Reeve Huston, associate professor of history, who wore a green band around his wrist to show his intention of being arrested. Lining up with protesters outside the General Assembly, Huston noted he had no fear going into the building because he was part of such a gigantic crowd.

“I’m fighting for equity in taxation and democracy, and that means making it easier for people who vote the least to vote, not harder,” he said.

As protesters marched into the General Assembly, North Carolina residents remaining outside of the building chanted messages of support, such as “Forward together, not one step back.” Protesters continued to sing and chant in the rain as they waited to see those who got arrested. Crowds did not fully disperse until around 8 p.m., when the last bus was shuttled off. 

Irma Stein, an 87-year-old Chatham County resident, attended the event with the Raging Grannies, a peace activist group. Wearing a floral dress and straw sunhat, Stein said the Raging Grannies came to protest the legislation using song.

“We are raging because we are angry with what the legislation is doing,” she said. “What more can I say?" 

Kim-Marie Saccoccio, deputy director of Lillian’s List—a group that aims to elect pro-choice female Democratsto the General Assembly—attended the protest to see her boss get arrested. She noted that youth should aim to get more involved in the movement because these bills can drastically alter North Carolina’s future.

“The power rests with the youth vote,” she said.

Lynn Knauff, co-secretary of the Orange County Democratic Party, attended the protests to be in solidarity with the movement, but noted that she may choose to get arrested next week.

“For me, I couldn’t stand still any longer,” she said. “I am an activist and standing back was certainly not the right response to what’s going on in the state.”

Although those who remain inside the General Assembly building are at the highest risk of being arrested, those supporting the movement outside of the building were also threatened with arrest.

Farah Hadjitaghi, a hairstylist from Chapel Hill, was threatened with arrest for touching police tape. After convincing the officer she had no intention of removing the tape, she stayed outside in the rain to thank those who were getting arrested. 

“This is my responsibility to come and let [the General Assembly] know that what they are doing is completely against the people of this state,” she said. “I’m trying to be a responsible citizen, that’s who I am.”

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