Most of the so-called “Tillis 15” who staged an overnight sit-in at Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis’s office this past Tuesday, and got arrested for it, re-assembled at the Durham office of the NAACP for a press conference Friday morning.
One of them, 27-year-old Wendy’s employee Crystal Price of Greensboro, is a single mother of two making $7.25 an hour. She has cervical cancer, and no insurance, and she’s angry at the State government’s refusal to expand Medicaid.
“I get on my hands and knees, crying because I’m in such severe pain at times,” said Price. “It hurts so bad, I can’t go to the hospital. I just sit there on my hands and knees, crying for hours.”
Moral Monday leader Rev. William Barber led the press conference, and he said that the June 2nd Moral Monday rally will focus on health care, and the environment.
Dr. Perri Morgan is the Director of Research in the Physician Assistant Division in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University Medical Center.
“Next Monday, doctors, nurses other health professionals, are going to be in Raleigh at Moral Monday,” she said, “and we’re also going to be back on Wednesday to meet with legislators one-on-one and talk about health care, because we’re deeply concerned with the decisions of this legislature.”
Morgan said that bills would be introduced in the House and Senate next week to reverse last year’s decision not to expand Medicaid, and she urged the Republican majority to change their votes.
“This year, our lawmakers seem intent on doing even more damage to our Medicaid system, and to needy patients” said Morgan, “since the budget proposed in the Senate would cut Medicaid and hinder the ability of thousands of blind, disabled and elderly patients to get the health care that they need.”
She called on medical professionals to form a “White Coat Brigade” to fight for better health care in North Carolina.
Volunteer lobbying for Medicaid expansion at the General Assembly will begin Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
Community Organizer Manju Rajendran of NC WARN had a message for legislators about North Carolina’s environment, as a fracking bill that passed through the legislature awaited Governor Pat McCrory’s signature.
“We hope you’ll repeal fracking; legislate an environmentally just coal ash solution; and make Duke Energy pay for a comprehensive cleanup,” said Rajendran. “Let’s transition our state to clean energy, before it’s too late.”
Of course, the main media spotlight at this coming Moral Monday rally will be on the protesters’ entrance into the General Assembly, and whether they adhere to rules recently set by an in-house commission.
The new rules bar signs on sticks, singing, clapping, or anything that creates a “disturbance.”
Barber has indicated that those rules will not be obeyed. Two weeks ago, protesters mocked the rules by filing into the General Assembly with tape over their mouths.
At the Durham press conference, Barber wondered aloud whether the May 28th arrests for the sit-in at Tillis’s office were even constitutional.
“Tillis said in 2011 that was his House,” said Barber. “Y’all check that. Y’all wrote that. He said that – to the media. He convened a committee that wrote these rules. So I feel kind of sorry for the officers. Because they’re being pushed to do stuff that really makes no sense. The rules can’t trump the constitution.”