Wataugan Women Among Hundreds Arrested During Waves of ‘Moral Monday’ Demonstrations in Raleigh
By Jesse Wood
June 25, 2013. More than 120 civil-disobedient protestors were arrested yesterday during the eighth round of “Moral Monday” demonstrations at the state capitol, bringing the total number of arrestees to roughly 600 during the past two months.
Among those handcuffed during the waves of protests were two residents of the High Country, Beth Davison, a 48-year-old resident of Boone, and Catherine Hopkins of Vilas and the High Country Church of Christ. Twice, Davison has driven to Raleigh to participate in the the protests, and one of those times ended with her being detained on June 3 until 4 a.m. the next dawn.
“I committed civil disobedience because I felt I was exercising my constitutional right to peacefully assemble, protest and petition representatives for redress of grievances,” Davison said, adding that one of the issues she wants to bring attention to is gerrymandering.
In the latest election, Democrats cast 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, yet the GOP won a commanding majority of seats in the House by a margin of 234 to 201. North Carolina was a clear example of this discrepancy.
While Davison acknowledges that the Democrats were beneficiaries of drawn districts for years, she said she supports a nonpartisan redistricting commission, which has had bipartisan support so far during this year’s legislative session.
“That’s a big issue for me,” Davison said.
But that’s not the only issue that folks are protesting at the state capitol. A release from the Advancement Project, a “next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization,” states that hundreds of protestors have filled the corridors of the General Assembly and lined the streets outside the statehouse to support public education, “women’s rights, labor rights and to express support for the more than 70,000 unemployed North Carolinians” who will lose emergency unemployment benefits by the end of the month.
“Already this year the General Assembly has passed laws that reject federal aid for extending Medicaid to 500,000 poor and uninsured North Carolina families, including 200,000 women and 25,000 veterans, deny federal benefits for 170,000 long-term laid-off workers, and phase out the Earned Income Tax Credit for 907,000 working poor,” the Advancement Project noted.
The last “Moral Monday” is next Monday, July 1, which is before the legislative session generally ends in mid July, and so far, as Davison said, “It’s definitely gotten people’s attention.”
She also said that these waves of protests have put the spotlight on and brought awareness to “what’s going on” in Raleigh.
“Generally, folks focus on national news … I want people to pay attention to what is going on at the state level, and I would like there to be more deliberation and more public input for the legislative bills they are passing,” Davison said. “I feel a vast amount of unjust laws are being passed at a very rapid pace, often late at night without a lot of people knowing.”
Reflections on June 3, 2013 Moral Monday Experience
from Catherine Hopkins, Peace and Justice Team Co-chair,
High Country United Church of Christ in Vilas
Getting arrested was never consciously on my bucket list. I’ve taken pride in my clean legal record in fact. But in recent years I have felt an increasing drive to consciously speak and stand for justice, for myself and for others too.
A year and a half ago I went to a conference where I first heard the Rev Dr William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP, speaking to the blatant injustices of the 2012 NC Amendment. I remember telling the people I was with that I had just had a taste of how MLK might have moved me, had I ever had the chance to see him in person. I also began to build the courage that would I need to take a stand for justice in 2012 for loving couples of all types.
Last year I helped lead High Country United Church of Christ (in Vilas) in opposing the Amendment that particularly degrades committed same-gender couples, and also diminishes unmarried straight couples. The dehumanizing impact of inserting an exclusionary right into our state’s Constitution still rankles, but experiencing locally and statewide such compassionate citizens all banding together for equal rights and protections for all committed couples was heartwarming.
In May 2013, I got up to speed on the series of regressive legislation continuing to come out of Raleigh after the Amendment, and realized the extent of further harms likely to impact a broad spectrum of vulnerable entities:
Our Earth, healthcare, education, voting rights, racial justice, reproductive rights, the unemployed, the poorer citizens, undocumented immigrants, whistleblowers, civil liberties, religious liberty, affordable loans, organized labor, and local governance.
I also began following with great interest the integrity with which Rev Barber’s NAACP of NC Moral Mondaycampaign is employed in advocating for justice for all in our state. I was also heartened to see once again that compassionate coalitions were coordinating in an effort to protect ‘the least of these’. Initially I had some mixed feelings about how involved I wanted to get in this Raleigh movement, especially living fully three and a half hours drive away.
I was raised comfortably in a family with racial and economic privilege. But, I have since known the ignominy and marginalization of being among ‘the least of these’. I lost a love to suicide, I am Constitutionally considered less than a fully relational human in North Carolina due my lifepartner’s gender matching mine, and my adult life path has included other stigmatizing challenges including mental illness, disability, poverty, and needing government assistance.
The extent of unnecessary damage now facing others who are marginalized, convinced me that I needed to take this particular stand. Part of me was terrified at the prospect of being handcuffed behind my back, being hauled off to jail, and then having a “record”. But another part of me was more terrified of not taking action serious enough and soon enough to prevent further harms to others who may be the ‘least of these’ — and for our only Earth.
One of Rev Barber’s gifts, and one of the strengths of the Moral Mondays movement, is the coalition building which has firmly connected not only disparate marginalized groups, but also many people of privilege for whom justice and equality for all is simply paramount. And, people are welcomed to participate however they are able; facing arrest is not required to support the movement though it does make a stronger statement.
On June 3rd I was arrested — alongside doctors,clergy, elected officials, educators, laborers, straight, gay, black, white,latino, veterans, peaceniks, differently abled, and on and on. That day, 151 of us were arrested (immediately doubling the grand total arrested cumulatively over4 prior weeks). And 1,600 people were there to support us as we split off from the main group for our non-violent civil disobedience act of singing and chanting in the legislature.
I’d never been inside the General Assembly building where our state’s laws are made, and was quite shocked at the elaborate Golden doors guarding the chambers. But I was most moved in that formal setting by the diverse group’s unified singing of old spirituals and civil rights songs, and prayers of the clergy of many faith traditions advocating for the “least of these” regardless of religious identity or lack thereof.
After the warnings to disperse were given and those not planning to be arrested left, the police began handcuffing people – arms behind backs – and seeing the vulnerable posture made me feel sick to my stomach. I was heartened by others beside me choosing the same path, and found comfort looking up to the balcony to a dear friend bearing silent witness.
I often turn to water as a source of spiritual cleansing and hope and healing. When it finally registered that I was standing next to an expansive low-lying fountain, I bent down and put my hands under the water and brought it up several times to run handfuls over my head. I felt a deep peace come, and voluntarily subjected myself to the temporary loss of personal freedom as a call for seeking justice.
There were multiple occasions that day and night that I had particularly intense feelings of solidarity and peace. One was after we’d spent about 4 hours handcuffed in the cafeteria downstairs and were getting loaded onto the last transport bus to the detention center.
There was a group of committed supporters standing out on the street waiting that whole time to cheer for every busload of the arrestees. They were standing out in the dark night singing, and at seeing us, shouted “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU”. The intensity of that feeling of support, unity, and solidarity, was so overwhelming it is hard to explain.
I could tell many more stories; there is one more I will leave you with. When I was released about 3:30am I was completely exhausted, emotionally and physically, and was completely famished. By the time I got out, even though all the police and guards I encountered were polite and respectful towards us, I was still feeling the shame so inherent in confinement.
As the door clanged shut behind me and I realized how unsteady I was on my feet, I heard cheers from supporters, and then immediately a petite older black woman in a sharp navy suit came over and grasped my pale white hand with such strength it surprised me, and fortunately helped keep me standing upright as I regained my bearings for free movement.
I had to bring my eyes up from the floor to met hers, but when I did she so warmly held my gaze and said, “Hi there, I am state Senator Earline Parmon and I am here tonight to thank you for taking this courageous stand for justice.” To come out of the jail at that hour in that shape and to be greeted with such gracious appreciation by someone who had overcome a long heritage of oppression, filled my heart to overflowing withwonder, unity, and hope.