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.
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.