RALEIGH – As the Moral Mondays protests ended their second full month, 17 of the very first protesters to be arrested appeared in court for the first time Monday. 

Like the majority of the other protesters who were arrested in the state’s legislative building for protesting, those who appeared before the judge were charged with trespassing, failure to disperse, and holding up signs.

Al McSurely, a civil rights lawyer who will be representing some of those arrested, says the charges are clearly unconstitutional.

“The charge is ridiculous, to say if people were walking into the legislature and holding up a sign, that that was somehow a crime,” McSurely said.

The lawyer who represented the 17 in court today, Irv Joyner from North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, similarly argued that the charges his clients faced were violations of their rights. While the trial begins in September, McSurely says the judge appeared to understand Joyner’s argument.

“Next week I’ll represent a whole group over there and we’ll raise the same issues,” McSurely said. “Maybe now a little more sharply, since we now know what the judge’s position is going to be on it.”

Another issue McSurely raises is that protesters who have been arrested cannot return to the legislature to protest again because they are being barred by police who argue that their return constitutes trespassing.

“Saying they can’t go back to the people’s house, can’t go back to the place that we paid the taxes for,” McSurely said. “That’s patently unconstitutional.”

Next week, 30 people will have their first court appearance. With 120 people being arrested again this week, more than 500 people still await their first day in court due to Moral Monday protests.