Standing for justice

singingI stood with 48 other people from all across North Carolina as we were arrested for second degree trespass and loud singing.


This was the third “Moral Monday,” in which demonstrators go into the NC Legislature Building and refuse to leave.

Two weeks ago, there were just a few demonstrators, and 19 were arrested.

The action, led by the NC NAACP, is to protest the avalanche of backward legislation coming out of the General Assembly. Many of us have tried to talk to our legislators and have gotten nowhere. We’re met with lies and half-truths about the laws they’re passing — if they meet with us at all.

Tim Moffitt, my representative, called the Voter ID law a leg-up for people trying to get out of poverty because an ID will help them get a job.

“I wouldn’t hire somebody without a photo ID,” he said. “Would you?”

Actually, I would hire someone who doesn’t have a license, I said.

“I call it a $6 investment in someone’s future,” he said.

That would be fine as long as someone doesn’t need that $6 for food.

Nathan Ramsey told me we can’t expand Medicaid because the state’s computer system isn’t ready for it. I told him I happen to know we turned down federal money to get it ready. Then he said, “we have to fix Medicaid before we can expand it.”

I told him our Medicaid system was a national model until it was seriously under-funded two years ago, so all we have to do is fully fund it again.

They’re used to dealing with people who aren’t familiar enough with issues to see through a snow job, I guess.

We have e-mailed and called and gone in person to talk to legislators who don’t give a damn what we think or what’s best for the people they supposedly serve. They have said as much with their actions and even with such words as, “I am the Senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

Each week’s bills have become more outrageous than the week before and there’s not any let-up.

Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP, led a group of about 300 of us into the building a month ago and we delivered letters to legislators, who ignored us. Thom Tillis actually ran away from us.

So, two weeks ago, a few dozen people went into the Legislature Building, “The People’s House,” as the Rev. Barber calls it, and 19 refused to leave. They were arrested.

Last week, more people went and 30 were arrested.

Last night, hundreds of people went in, singing and chanting, and 49 of us were arrested.

I have never been arrested before, but it is time to stand up for justice.

My issue is health care, but they have attacked us on so many fronts, we have united to say we will not stand for these injustices. As we chanted last night, “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

We were arrested as we sang “We Shall not be Moved,” and led away with our hands bound by zip-ties, still singing as they loaded us onto the elevator. We had our belongings taken from us and were loaded onto a bus, where we chanted and sang some more. We worked together to open the bus windows to alleviate the stifling heat. Of course, that allowed our chants and songs to be heard by the crowd of hundreds across the street, who cheered and waved as each of us was loaded onto the bus, still singing.

As the bus pulled out, we chanted, “The people, united, will never be defeated!” People standing on the sidewalk said they could hear us and several were moved to tears.

We were proud, we were defiant; we were not intimidated, and we chanted all the way to the jailhouse. The chant became musical and some people began to harmonize. It was a beautiful, powerful sound and it gave each of us courage.

Once in the jailhouse garage, we began to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” and we continued to sing as we were led inside and placed on steel benches, our voices echoing in the cavernous garage.

One by one, our zip-ties were removed and we were searched and processed. One person began to sing, “Freedom, freedom freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom,” and soon several of us were singing and harmonizing. The song became a prayer as we swayed and sang, and the police watched.

We were processed, one by one, and moved to the next bench, where we sang again.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom.”

They made us take our shoelaces out of our shoes and we joked about how much cuter our shoes had been with laces as they flopped when we walked.

Those of us who have been arrested have been banned from the Legislative Building until our court cases have been resolved, so the people who were arrested in previous weeks stood across the street, singing and chanting encouragement.

The first of us were released in about three hours, and we were met by a cheering crowd that included a legislator or two. We walked into the waiting arms of Rev. Barber and Rev. Curtis Gatewood, and then were led to food and drink before we were shuttled back to our cars.

I spent the night with my friend, Carol, who stayed up until after 2 a.m. with me, searching the Web for news of the Moral Mondays demonstration. I had seen the first news report while we were being booked on News 14, and now there were several.

State Sen. Tom Apodaca called us a “nuisance,” and said we all should know by now that he doesn’t care what we think.

Well, I believe the movement will grow. I believe the legislators will have to care because we will not go away. Those of us who have been arrested and threatened with real jail time if we go back will be replaced by people who will join the movement. Each week it will grow.

Moral Mondays will continue for awhile at least, and the movement will need more people to stand up for justice.

Our freedom requires people who are willing to fight, so if you want to go, whether you can be arrested or not, check the NC NAACP web site, sign up and go to Raleigh next Monday or the Monday after …

If we don’t take action now, things will only get worse.


Reminds me of 1968

Looking at photos of the demonstrations in Chicago reminds me a little of the Democratic National Convention in 1968. During that steamy summer, Chicago exploded as protesters gathered there to show solidarity against the war in Vietnam.

Once again, we the people are pissed off about our money being spent on wars abroad instead of people in need both here and abroad. Many of us see this as a gathering of warmongers. Veterans marched to return their medals and people  by the tens of thousands supported them.

While news outlets were describing the “hundreds” who came out to protests, we see pictures of tens of thousands filling the streets.

We see photos of unruly crowds, just as we did in 1968, but we also see people who are peaceful, who want nothing more than to express their thoughts in a land that boasts freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

I have been to many demonstrations in my time. I wish I could be in Chicago today.

In 1968, we were told we couldn’t leave Vietnam because the Communists would overrun South Vietnam and then all the neighboring countries and then go on to conquer the world, known as the “Domino Theory.” It was “fight ’em there or fight ’em here.” Today that same argument is being used to keep us in Afghanistan for 11 years and counting. Terrorists will come and kill us in our sleep.

Well, the Commies didn’t show up on our shores, and if we stop meddling with the governments of the Middle East, the terrorists will have no reason to come after us.

War is a very profitable endeavor when it’s not your country that’s being shot up or bombed back to the stone age.

The most important difference between our most recent wars and the war in Vietnam is the lack of information Americans today receive about what’s really happening. Correspondents in Afghanistan have to fight to get any stories on the evening news. Reporters are “embedded” rather than allowed to go in search of the truth.

During the Vietnam war, we saw the horrors every night on the news. We watched as American soldiers torched villages where they suspected Vietcong soldiers were hiding. We saw a man executed by a gunshot to the head, we saw children lit afire with napalm. We saw our own gravely wounded soldiers loaded up into helicopters.

We aren’t allowed to see that now, because if we did, we would demand this slaughter in our name be stopped immediately. This war isn’t as unpopular at home as the Vietnam war was because we’re not seeing the destruction being wrought in our name. That’s how NATO wants it, and that’s why we have to stop it.

Average Americans aren’t being asked to contribute anything to the war effort except our sons and daughters, who may be deployed three, four or five times before they are too broken to be deployed again, unless, of course, they die.

Like Vietnam, it isn’t the wealthy whose children are going to fight. During Vietnam, the wealthy could buy spots for their children in the National Guard after they had run out their college deferments. Back then, the Guard didn’t deploy overseas; we had the draft to fill the ranks of the regular military services. But the draft is so unpopular politically we now recruit poor kids out of high school and promise them a college education when they get back — if they get back.

In Vietnam, the majority of draftees were from the working class. The wealthier you were, the better your chances for avoiding the draft, either through college deferments or medical deferments (I’m thinking of Rush Limbaugh’s anal cysts). It’s no coincidence that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the rest of the chicken hawks never served in the military (well, George’s daddy got him into the National Guard, where we all know his record of not showing up).

Meanwhile, military contractors are lining their pockets with billions of our tax dollars. The rich are getting richer while the rest of us are getting screwed.

Is it any wonder Americans are crowding into the streets of Chicago to protest?




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