RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — About 100 people were arrested Monday after their singing and clapping protest outside the state Senate chamber was declared an unlawful assembly, in what has become a weekly demonstration against Republican initiatives.
More than two-thirds of those arrested were women, as organizers focused on women’s rights while legislation that could close most of the state’s abortion clinics nears a final vote. More than 800 people have been arrested at the Legislative Building in expressions of civil disobedience since the “Moral Monday” protests began in April.
Demonstrators lined up outside the Senate’s shiny gold-colored doors to be arrested as law enforcement officers lined up to slip plastic cuffs over their wrists. The General Assembly’s police chief, Jeff Weaver, wrote in an email late Monday that there were 101 arrests for allegedly violating the building’s rules, failure to disperse on command and trespassing — all misdemeanors.
A bill requiring more stringent rules for abortion clinics and demands upon physicians who perform abortions passed the House last week. A Republican Senate leader said Tuesday lawmakers there will take their time to consider the measure. If senators go along, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory says he will sign it into law.
Jeannie Franklin, 66, and Grace Stitt, 65, both of Black Mountain, said they’d been wanting to attend the weekly rally outside the Legislative Building. They tackled the eight-hour round trip on a bus they said was chartered by the Buncombe County Democratic Party.
“I felt like I needed to do something more than write an email to a senator or representative because I’m not sure those are ever read,” Stitt said. “I guess I felt like I haven’t spoken up enough and it’s time to make my statement.”
Franklin said she was upset that Republican lawmakers rejected the opportunity to expand Medicaid to cover health care for the poor even though the federal government would have paid the full cost for the first couple of years, a provision of the federal health insurance overhaul law backed by President Barack Obama. She said she also was angry that the Legislature cut unemployment benefits despite knowing that this would make North Carolina the only state to disqualify about 70,000 long-term jobless workers from the federally provided income.
“It’s been one bad thing after another, week after week after week. Our state is in a race to the bottom,” Franklin said.
Republicans are planning to join the public activism, if only for one day.
Republican groups planned a rally Tuesday afternoon to thank GOP legislators for pushing views the groups support into law, said Mike Rusher, a spokesman for the North Carolina Republican Party.
“We have a lot of Republicans across the state that wanted to do something to show some appreciation to the legislators. A lot of the media attention has centered around the protests, which they feel and we also feel is getting a lot of unnecessary coverage,” he said.
While Tuesday’s one-time rally is aimed at countering the Monday demonstrations, Republicans also want to buck up GOP lawmakers for coming decisions on a tax overhaul and requiring voters to show identification when voting, Rusher said.
“We’re very excited to even be in a position to discuss tax reform in North Carolina,” he said. “The tax code is long overdue of being updated and this is a conversation in North Carolina hasn’t been able to have.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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