CHAPEL HILL – A tornado watch and rain throughout the evening couldn’t keep more than a thousand determined activists and many local leaders and residents of Orange County from gathering outside the General Assembly in Raleigh for the sixth week of the NAACP’s Moral Monday protests.
With 84 arrests Monday evening, the total number as a result of the demonstrations is now more than 350.
Clergy members from across the state led those planning to be arrested, who wore green arms bands, and their supporters as they marched together into the General Assembly. Mia Burroughs, a member of the Chapel Hill Carborro City School Board of Education, was one of the supporters.
“Our public schools are the key to our state’s future and to our community’s future. The General Assembly this year is trying to destroy it,” Burroughs said.
She was joined by fellow BoE member James Barrett.
Burroughs says the CHCCS faces steep budget shortfalls this year, but she trusts the Orange County Commissioners to provide additional funding for the district. She says she worries, though, for other counties and districts in the state that don’t have that support.
“They need the teacher assistants; they need the excellent education. They need teachers who can afford to be there and don’t need second jobs to support themselves,” Burroughs said.
Emma Parry, a rising sixth grader, came with her mom to support teachers in Orange County. Parry was not intimidated in the least by the hectic scene.
“I think it is really fun and it is really inspiring because everyone came out here with the same beliefs I have,” Parry said.
Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier was there, along with Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, and Carrboro Board of Aldermen Damon Seils and Michelle Johnson. Chilton was the first arrested at last Monday’s rally. Seils, Johnson, Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell, and Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade would follow.
Pelissier says the growing number Orange County leaders attending the protests mirrors their increasing fears of how this wave of legislation will affect their constituents.
“I want to make sure that we can provide all of the services that our residents need,” Pelissier said.
Pelissier says that this movement must be a state-wide effort for it to actually make a difference.
“I hope that we will get the attention of citizens across North Carolina because I’m not sure that they understand what is happening,” Pelissier said.
Local resident Ted Rueter believes the General Assembly is moving in the wrong direction—what many protesters have said since the birth the Moral Monday rallies in late April.
“This is one of the most radical and regressive state legislatures in the country and I’m embarrassed by what they are doing. They certainly don’t represent the views of people in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Raleigh,” Rueter said.
Frankie Price-Stern, who has lived in Chapel Hill for 19 years, says her grievance is the state’s efforts to limit voting rights.
“I absolutely do not understand how somebody can sleep at night and pass voter suppression laws. It is so far against everything that has to do with a democracy,” Price-Stern said.
Fellow Chapel Hillian Lisa Hamill echoed the same sentiment.
“All of the things the General Assembly is doing bother me, from the environmental deregulation of our water quality, to their refusal to have compassion and allow the expansion of Medicaid, denying 5,000 North Carolinians,” Hamill said.
Geoffrey Frank, who attends the United Church of Chapel Hill, has now participated in four Moral Mondays. He believes in the message of movement leader and NAACP state chapter president, Reverend William Barber.
“Reverend Barber is just a wonderful character. He captures the whole thing, and has a wonderful sense of it,” Frank said.
Protesters, though, aren’t so happy with the leadership of Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
Some state leaders have spoken out against McCrory as well, including Senator Malcolm Graham (Dem.- Mecklenburg). He served on the Charlotte Town Council while McCrory was mayor of Charlotte. Graham says during that time, McCrory was a moderate.
“Now as governor, he is really being led by House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger. McCrory is not leading, he is being led,” Graham said.
Graham, who looked on as protesters rallied outside chamber doors, says that the NAACP’s efforts are being heard in Charlotte. He said a bus load of his constituents drove up for the protest.
Senator Ellie Kinnaird, who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, also made an appearance to watch as protesters chanted and sang in unison outside the Assembly’s chamber doors.
The NAACP will host “Witness Wednesday” this week at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. The event is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.