Protesters Once Again Shut Down UNC Board of Governors Meeting

The UNC Board of Governors meeting on Friday was once again brought to a halt by protesters.

The meeting was being held in Chapel Hill at the Center for School Leadership Development on the campus of the Friday Center after it was moved from the campus at UNC – Asheville due to “potential for large numbers of protesters.”

Between 75 and 100 protesters made it to the Friday Center on Friday and about 20 were allowed into the meeting.

Listen to the report from WCHL’s Blake Hodge below:


Chanting could be heard throughout the meeting from those protesters who were not allowed into the packed room.

During the President’s Report from Margaret Spellings, about 30 minutes into the meeting, protesters inside the room interrupted Spellings as the newly-installed President updated the board on her visits to campuses across the System.

Warning: Video contains strong language:

The chanting continued through request from board chair Lou Bissette for them to stop and the meeting went into a recess.

UNC Chief of Police Jeff McCracken then gave the protesters the option of voluntarily leaving or being arrested.

The protesters walked out voluntarily.

There was a heavy police presence, with an estimated 40 law enforcement officers from varying local agencies on hand.

Protesters at UNC Board of Governors meeting. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Protesters at UNC Board of Governors meeting. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Bissette made it very clear when speaking with reporters after the meeting that the board is ready to move past the continued protests.

“I don’t like it,” Bissette said of the protests. “I particularly don’t like the rudeness and a lack of common decency that a number of these protesters have, but I understand it. I’m a big boy. I’ve been around a long time.

“They’re protesters. They’re doing what they think they need to be doing, although I don’t agree with it.”

Protests have been a common scene at board meetings over the last year as the board announced that President Tom Ross would be leaving that post, in a move that many protesters viewed as politically-motivated.

Bissette said the board will be implementing a public comment period during the board’s next meeting to allow concerns to be voiced.

“Where people can sign up and come in and tell the Board of Governors what they want us to hear,” Bissette said. “The problem now is, these people out there, they’re not advancing their cause because they’re out there screaming.”

Bissette said he is hopeful that the public comment period will alleviate some of the protesters concerns.

Lou Bissette. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Lou Bissette. Photo via Blake Hodge.

“I think for some people who really want to convey their feelings and have a dialogue, I think that’ll help,” Bissette said. “For those who want to scream ‘F You’ and ‘Margaret Spellings has got to be gone by the end of the year,’ it probably is not going to affect them.”

Bissette did have a simple message for those protesters saying they would only be satisfied when Spellings is removed from the role of President of the UNC System.

“If that’s the case, they’re not going to be happy for a long time,” Bissette said, “because she’s not going anywhere.”

Campus Protests: Too Far? Not Far Enough?

Especially in the aftermath of recent events at the University of Missouri, there’s been a wave of demonstrations and protests at college campuses across the country – including UNC, where students recently took over a town hall-style meeting on race and inclusivity. Demonstrators say they’re speaking out against institutionalized racism in higher education – racism that manifests itself in many ways, from disparities in policing to cuts in need-based aid to campus buildings named after white supremacists (like Saunders Hall at UNC, recently renamed “Carolina Hall”).

Read the full list of demands issued by the students who protested at the town hall meeting.

Are the demonstrations going too far? Are the students right to demand major change? Are they going about it the right way? Are their methods productive? Counterproductive?

Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck this week for a conversation about demonstrations on campus.

Moral Monday Protests Postponed for Memorial Day

Memorial Day will postpone Moral Monday, the well-known demonstrations against the North Carolina General Assembly’s legislative session, which kicked off last week.

However, NAACP President Rev. William Barber announced the protest will resume with a different twist on Tuesday, May 27.

Demonstrators are planning to meet in the capitol at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday for a question-and-answer session with members of the legislature about the issues at the forefront of the movement.

Protests are scheduled to return to the regular Monday-evening schedule the following week.

Sondra Stein, president of Durham Democratic Women, says she plans on questioning the legislature’s laws toward issues she believes are most pertinent to North Carolinians: voting ID laws, denying health care, and cuts to public education.

“This legislature keeps on cutting resources and taking away from this fundamental source of enabling people to accomplish their dreams and their goals and get some place,” Stein says.

Carrboro Alderperson Sammy Slade was present at the first protest of the first full week of the legislative short session, and says he believes in the importance of continuous demonstrations against the North Carolina Legislature.

“As money is influencing politics in extreme ways now that the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for money, it’s even more imperative for communities to organize to counter what big money represents and speak for the people’s values,” Slade says.

Stein, who also attended last week’s event, says she looks forward to the coming weeks, which she hopes will bring change when elections begin in November.

“I hope they’re listening and watching,” Stein says. “There were thousands of us who were out there once again on Monday night and we’ll keep coming back until we have some sign that they do care about what we’re saying.”

Moral Monday Protests Return

The capitol city will be ringing with shouts, songs and sirens as Moral Monday protests return for the first full week of the legislative session at 5:00 p.m.

Groups in conjunction with the movement, such as the North Carolina NAACP, encourage North Carolinians to organize in defense of their civil rights and influence legislators to include a more liberal perception in state policy.

Protestors often congregate in thousands and gather inside the General Assembly to voice their opposition to the state’s Republican led government and their policies regarding issues such as women’s rights and abortion, tax legislation and public education.

Last year’s demonstration saw almost 1,000 arrests. Many of them have yet to be tried. Some citizens among those arrested include the community’s own “Orange County Five”, former mayor of Carrboro Mark Chilton, Carrboro Alderpersons Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson and Sammy Slade, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Donna Bell who were arrested in June of 2013 in the movement’s “Mega Moral Monday.”

The North Carolina Legislative Services Commission met Thursday for the first time since 1999 and announced a change that limits where and how citizens can protest in the General Assembly. According to the commission’s new rules, Raleigh police are permitted to remove demonstrators creating an “imminent disturbance”, which includes “singing, clapping, shouting, playing instruments or using sound amplification equipment.”

Local Baker Brings Cookies (And A Message) To Raleigh

These are the cookies Steere delivered. Photo (and caption) via Golden Age Bakery’s Facebook page.

CHAPEL HILL – The NAACP’s “Moral Monday” demonstration drew hundreds to Raleigh again this week to speak out against the bills being passed by the state’s General Assembly–but many other North Carolinians are getting active in other ways, including one small business owner in Chapel Hill who chose a unique way to get her message across.

Sylvia Steere (a friend of the author) is the owner of Golden Age Bakery, a gluten-free bakery she operates out of her Chapel Hill home. Ordinarily she’s trying to sell her cookies, but on Monday she gave them away — 170 of them, in fact — hand-delivering one each to every single legislative office in the State House and Senate.

Her mission? To urge the General Assembly not to pass House Bill 998, the House’s tax-reform plan that will expand the scope of sales taxes while cutting the tax rate on large corporations.

“It will reduce corporate taxes, over the next few years, to completely eliminate them by 2017 — and that’s going to put a lot of the burden on the people that actually consume,” Steere says. “That would be approximately 95 percent of North Carolin(ians) spending more in sales taxes.

“It’s a tax cut for the rich and a tax increase for the poor, and ultimately I don’t consider that good for business, from a small-business standpoint.”

Supporters of the bill say it’s designed to ease the tax burden on businesses — including small businesses — by basing taxes more on consumption. But Steere says a consumption-based tax system wouldn’t be good for her business either.

“If I were a large corporation, I might consider it beneficial,” she says, “but I’m a consumer, and my customers are consumers. And I’d like to not raise prices on ourselves to lower corporate taxes. I feel like it’s the large corporations that could probably afford to spend a little bit more.”

House Bill 998 is not the only tax plan out there: the State Senate is debating several different tax reform proposals, and Governor Pat McCrory has offered his own as well. Each of those plans also include reductions in the corporate tax, though not all of them expand the sales tax as the House bill does.

The General Assembly and Governor McCrory’s office are expected to reach agreement on a final tax plan by the end of the month. While the final plan may not please Steere, she says she’s glad to have spoken out — and she’s hopeful her novel approach might have gotten legislators’ attention.

“It felt very good, actually — just to get out there, see some faces, smile, (and) hand them off,” she says. “They were — in my opinion — very beautifully packaged little thank-you cards, with my note saying why I don’t think they should pass this bill, and a little cookie showing who I am and what my business is doing.”

Steere sells her products online and in local stores, including Southern Season and Foster’s Market.