The momentum of protests against the reactionary policy choices of the General Assembly and Governor McCrory continues to grow and evolve. The latest example: today’s “Witness Wednesday” event at which eight courageous North Carolinians — two whom are wheelchair bound and one of whom walks with a cane — were arrested and handcuffed outside the state Senate chamber while another 150 or so supporters watched and sang hymns from inside the rotunda of the Legislative Building.
The hymn singing served as an especially poignant counterpoint to the droning and disingenuous explanation of the regressive House budget bill that Appropriations subcommittee chairs were providing on the House floor at the same time. Sounds of the singing reached lawmakers and observers in the House gallery as a kind of muffled roar for several minutes that was occasionally punctuated by fleeting seconds of unfiltered sound every time a door was opened.
The protests inside the Legislative Building were preceded by an energetic rally out front at which Rev. William Barber of the NAACP, MaryBe McMillan of the state AFL-CIO and Guilford County Commissioner and veteran civil rights advocate Carolyn Coleman (who was later arrested) told a crowd of supporters and news media representatives that the recent attacks on the Moral Monday protests by Gov. McCrory and State Senator Thom Goolsby were sure to fuel the flame of protest rather than suppress it.
Barber, in particular, seemed to take great delight in highlighting the absurdity of McCrory’s claim that the protests were somehow the product of “outside agitators” (a claim debunked by WRAL-TV reporter Mark Binker in this story on Monday).
After asking the crowd to raise their hands if they were from North Carolina — a request that produced a unanimous response — Barber read off the names of several high-priced conservative consultants brought into the state in recent months to develop, explain and rationalize any number of policy proposals authored by the conservative majority. It was a stinging and powerful rebuke to the Governor’s claim — a claim Barber likened to those of George Wallace, Bull Connor and other opponents of the 1960’s civil rights movement.
Not that the protest organizers would reject help from around the country. After both McMillan and Barber noted that the eyes of the nation were increasingly on the state, Barber urged fellow Americans who may feel so inclined to “come on down” to North Carolina in the same way that freedom riders came south during the early 1960’s.
Today’s event also evoked memories another important Civil Rights era event as attendees marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Those arrested said that they were taking action in the name of Evers and other Civil Rights era martyrs.