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A shameful morning in more ways than one

Abortion protestIt’s hard to say what’s most outrageous and offensive in and around the North Carolina public policy world these days: the blatant special interest vote buying, the astonishing greed of giant corporations and their hired gun lobbyists, the not-so-thinly veiled racist pandering that oozes out of some of the far right advocacy groups, the raw political ambition that underlies the Phil Berger-Thom Tillis fight or Gov. McCrory’s ongoing impression of The Invisible Man.    

Here’s another leading candidate for today, however: the just plain meanness and nastiness of the folks running things on Jones Street. This has been evident on numerous occasions throughout the year — in the contempt for the democratic process and the right to be heard that’s constantly on display, in the way legislative leaders (particularly Senators like Tom Apodaca and Jerry Tillman) use rude, bullying language and tactics vis a vis their fellow lawmakers and members of the public, and in the dramatically ramped-up presence of law enforcement officers brandishing handcuffs, cameras and snarls on their faces.

This latter phenomenon was in full swing this morning as several hundred frustrated citizens — a large proportion of them moms toting their infant children — gathered in and around the Senate chamber to listen and watch as Senators finished off the dirty and disingenuous deed they commenced last night to make abortion a virtual impossibility in North Carolina. 

As anyone who has been to even a handful of demonstrations could testify, this was not a mean or threatening crowd in any conceivable way. It was a polite, wholesome and remarkably respectful group of average citizens. Half the crowd milling outside the crammed Senate gallery was watching or listening to their smartphones in an effort to follow the proceeding inside.  “Shhhh” was the “word” most frequently heard.

But when the bill finally passed after a couple hours of mostly infuriating debate and people spontaneously broke out in brief chants of “”Shame!” to watch the Capitol police you’d have thought the Legislative Building was under attack by the Taliban. Officers sprang to action, moving in small swarms. Citizens with the temerity to speak above normal conversation-level voices were threatened with arrest and, in the case of one younger woman I saw, apparently arrested.

Another middle-aged African-American woman was forcibly escorted down the stairs from the third floor for shouting “shame!” and “I’m not afraid!” I could not see if she was arrested.

Mind you, all of this was taking place as the crowd was steadily dispersing of its own volition and at the same moment that the Senate was adjourning; there was no further business on the Senate calendar for the day and no important public business that would have been disrupted.

As a practical matter, there was no reason for the officers to even be there at all once the Senate gallery was emptied. As anyone who has ever been to the third floor of the Legislative Building can attest, there are no offices there and literally nothing to disrupt.  The only people hearing protester shouts would have been the protesters themselves and the media.

And yet, in keeping with the new, heavy-handed and just plain mean tenor of North Carolina state government these days, the officers sprang to self-important and intimidating action. All in all, it was an embarrassing overreaction and yet another powerful reminder of the paranoid prism through which the elected officials running our state (and the people they employ) seem to view their fellow citizens.

11 Comments

  1. phil

    July 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    I think there was a difference after the episode last wednesday when the three younger activists were unarrested after there was a threat of media attention. The police are starting to take queues from the governor’s office PR folks. I suspect some police are not pleased with this and there is bound to be confusion and dissent amongst them.

  2. Frances Jenkins

    July 4, 2013 at 12:11 am

    The shame is to equate the use of Viagra with an abortion. Thank you Senator Harrington for pointing this out. This is a matter of life or death. I encourage the Democrat Party to use abortion, especially late term abortions in 2014. I want to see Nesbit run on Viagra platform. He will be sitting his but in Asheville. Ellie Kinnard the shame is on you.

  3. Amy Carter

    July 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    You captured perfectly the contemptuous disrespect with which the leaders of the Senate held its citizens who were there to watch the process yesterday. It was autocratic, condescending, and undemocratic. Thank you for this letting people know not just what happened but HOW these folks conducted themselves. Embarrassing.

  4. Frances Jenkins

    July 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    The Democrats lead the way. The shame is on Ellie, Josh, Martin, Eva and Angelina. Abortion equated to the use of Viagra.

  5. gregflynn

    July 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    What is shameful is claiming that the bill is about safety, not abortion, and when the relative safety of Viagra is revealed, claiming it is about abortion after all.

  6. Frances Jenkins

    July 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    If I left out the name of Josh there would not have been a protest from Greg. Josh is Greg’s Bluepoint/Blueprint? Right Greg????

  7. david esmay

    July 7, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Isn’t this sweet, the corporate funded fascist theocracy the GOPer’s have created for themselves is experiencing growing pains, but no crisis of conscience.

  8. Frances Jenkins

    July 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    David’s attitude is why the average person in NC hates liberals. They think they are smarter, better and purer than everyone. They have no idea about the poor or less fortunate except to make fun of them. Here is good advice for you, David. You put your pants on the same way we do. And we can add zeroes on most days better than you. If you could take away our right to vote, you would do it in a second because we are low information votes. You think you are culturally better and you probably are but your vote counts the same as mine. Funny thing, you make mistakes with the King’s English with the best of them. So blew it out your ear. You are wrong and more in NC think you are wrong than right.

  9. david esmay

    July 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Frances the legislative intern posing as an old lady is a prime example of the lengths GOPer’s go to to manipulate their base. A political party such as the Republican party, that takes the position that teaching critical thinking in schools is wrong because it interferes with ignorant parenting is the Stupid Party, but it also increases their base.

    The conservative brain, especially those with little education, is a belief engine, the Republican party uses pattern recognition and confirmation bias to help them form and reinforce beliefs and fears their base already possesses. Examples of this process can be found in every GOP talking point, politics(big government is bad, even though every GOP administration has increased the size of government), economics( cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations while attacking the poor and unemployed creates jobs and stimulates the economy), religion( this helps them portray themselves as victims and control their simple minded base), conspiracy theories( the government is your enemy).
    All of their statements are carefully worded and choreographed to elicit a response based on the own established bias’, cognitive priming at it’s finest. Government is the enemy, public education is broken, regulations are bad, but like all of “Frances” talking points, they’re never specific, but they are full of hyperbole and innuendo.

    The GOP leadership pollutes the GA with legislation that takes ridiculously extreme positions and then tries to support it with nonsensical and invalid observations. The recent back door attack on a woman’s constitutionally protect right to choose is a prime example. Their argument for the necessity of this bill is that by denying women access to health care, they are actually improving it. Winston Smith would be proud of this up is down, ignorance is good, knowledge is bad lunacy. To make the mental leap that by denying access to a medical procedure would somehow reduce the demand for it takes a very special kind of self deception.

    Confront a Republican with data and facts that debunks their repeated right-wing myths on taxes, economics, government, etc., they are undeterred, arguments don’t have to be reality based for them to achieve their goals.

    The good news is that demographic projections are that the Democrats are going to grow at such a rate, that there is nothing the GOP can do, whether it is voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, inflicting economic misery on those less fortunate, is going to prevent them from becoming a minority, and a very small one at that.

  10. Doug

    July 8, 2013 at 10:49 am

    As far as the “facts” blurb, there are really no “facts” that have been presented that hold any water. Plus, the “facts” presented by the left tend to be un-verifiable and heresay more than what would be traditionally called a fact by the textbook definition.

  11. david esmay

    July 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Exactly, the right has never presented any peer reviewed data or facts to support any of their preposterous assertions on any subject. The connies wouldn’t know a textbook if you dropped one on their heads.