Thank you all for the encouraging words of support and solidarity for those working for freedom and fairness in North Carolina. And deep gratitude to Reverend Barber and the North Carolina NAACP for their masterful management of Mega Moral Monday. This is a report on what happened, and why, from one man’s perspective. Another excellent diary on the event is here.
There are times in life when business as usual won’t get the job done, when the best of intentions and hard work are not enough. This is one of those times. Extreme overreaching by Republicans in our General Assembly has triggered a backlash of epic proportions. Freedom and fairness are at grave risk. Extraordinary action is required.
That’s why more than 1500 people marched yesterday, with 151 people being arrested in the North Carolina General Assembly. At the end of a very long day, we were charged with three specific misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, singing songs and carrying signs, and failure to disperse.
As one of the 151, I was moved and humbled by the experience. And it was anything but disorderly. We marched two-by-two into the People's House and spent an hour of singing, praying and talking about the need for integrity to be restored to our government. Here's what the procession looked like from the top of the legislative building. My friend Alan Britt and I are in the bright orange t-shirts. I'm wearing the pork-pie hat. The second photo shows what the arresting process looked like. That's either Alan or me on the left being cuffed.
I didn't see any black officers until we got to the detention center. In the legislative building itself, the only black people were protesters and elderly door men.
Zip-tie handcuffs hurt like hell, especially when your hands are cuffed behind your back for four hours. Some people were able to coax friendly officers to switch their cuffs to the front. The three officers I asked more or less said, "If you didn't want to be in pain, you shouldn't have gotten arrested."
One hundred and fifty-one people create a serious logjam in the criminal justice bureaucracy, and no one was in a hurry to get us out of there. At the same time, most officers were cordial and professional.
I spent a good deal of time sitting next to an ex-state Senator who believes the arresting process was contrived to be punitive. He argued there we no reason to arrest, cuff, and process everyone ... that the Capitol police could have simply issued citations. I don't know the law, but officers I talked with in the detention center seemed to agree that they whole ordeal with another example of Republican shenanigans. Doesn't matter, though. We were there to get arrested and we paid the price.
From my view, the price was a small one, well worth paying to challenge our illegitimate government. Through extreme and illegal gerrymandering, our General Assembly in no way reflects the people who voted in the 2012 elections. That's why many of us are focused on three key words. Redraw. Resign. Restore.
My last half hour of incarceration was the most valuable time I spent. I was sitting next to an 18-year-old man who had been arrested for marijuana possession. He was a gentle and scared young person whose life will now be upended for doing something that millions of other people do every day with impunity. But because Duane is black, he's just one more sad statistic in America's insane war on drugs.
One of my first initiatives as governor of North Carolina will to end our service in the war on drugs. I will push to regulate marijuana as 13 other states have already done.
Thank you again for the support you've shown for those of us laboring under the burden of the Tarheel Taliban.