As was reported late yesterday, a Superior Court judge in Wake County ruled that at least some new state Legislative Building rules go too far in denying access to the public. Late last night, the NAACP of North Carolina issued the following statement in response:
In a great victory for the people in North Carolina, a Wake County judge granted the North Carolina NAACP’s motion for a temporary restraining order on three of the new Legislative Building rule changes on the grounds that they are overly broad and thus unfit for enforcement.
All three enjoined provisions were added to the Legislative Building rules the week before the start of the short session in a blatant attempt to silence the Moral Mondays protests that rocked the NC General Assembly and raised the consciousness of the state last summer.
After hearing hours of oral arguments from the North Carolina NAACP legal team and state attorneys, Judge Carl Fox ruled against the following rule changes:
- Section III (C) 2a: Judge Fox ruled that barring people from “making noise that is loud enough to impair others’ ability to conduct a conversation in a normal tone of voice” was overly vague. What constitutes a “normal” tone of voice differs from person to person, giving law enforcement too much discretion. Section 2a specifically targeted the Forward Together Moral Movement by directly mentioning activities such as “singing, clapping [and] shouting.”
- Section III (C) 2b: This section banned the people from impeding or obstructing access to doors, stairways, hallways or the legislative chambers. Judge Fox also ruled this measure overly broad on the grounds that state lawmakers have no more rights to impede the free movement of the people inside the Legislative Building than they would outside on the streets.
- Section III (C) 4: Judge Fox upheld the ban on signs mounted on sticks, but he temporarily enjoined the new rule blocking signs that could be “used to disturb or used in a manner that will imminently disturb the General Assembly” as overly broad and vague.
“Speaker Thom Tillis tried to muffle the Forward Together Moral Movement by calling this last-minute, closed-doors meeting of the practically defunct Legislative Services Commission to change the building rules on us directly before the short session, but his political games did not hold up to the higher constitutional standards required in our courts,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “What Speaker Tillis tried to do in the dark has now come to the light in the courts, and it has been found wanting. We would not be silenced by these rules changes this session, and we look forward to returning to the People’s House this Monday to petition our lawmakers for the redress of grievances as is our constitutional right.”
Today, Judge Fox upheld the rule change that ban people from causing a disturbance or posing an imminent threat of a disturbance as well as the provision that allows the Legislative Service Officer to put more restrictions on the use of space.
The NC NAACP filed its motion against the new Legislative Building rules changes on June 11 alongside five other plaintiffs – Douglas and Vicki Ryder, Sylvia Barnes, O’Linda Gillis and Stella Adams.
“This decision is a tremendous victory for protecting the time-honored principle of the ‘Rule of Law,’” said Atty. Irv Joyner, NCCU Law professor and a member of the NC NAACP legal team. Joyner and Attorney Scott Holmes argued the NC NAACP’s motion before Judge Fox today.
“This principle revolves around the notion that constitutional rights and guarantees are fundamental and essential in protecting the well-being of racial minorities, the poor and others who are presently being victimized by regressive legislative enactments from this General Assembly,” Joyner continued. “The NC NAACP has chosen to fight against efforts to roll back legal protections and guarantees that people have fought for and won over the years. This decision is a step in the right direction and renews our enthusiasm and energy level, which is needed to continue to attack these unjust laws and procedures in the courts.”
A copy of the NC NAACP complaint can be found HERE.
A copy of the newly amended Legislative Building rules can be found HERE.