Attention Tea Partiers: McClatchy’s crayon corps says the aging former hippies, now suckling at the government teat from their tenured university positions, screaming and hollering — and getting arrested — at the legislative building are JUST LIKE YOU. So says crayonista Anne Blythe (whose favorite crayon shade is reportedly Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown™):
The historians, doctors, preachers, lawyers, raging grannies, students and others gathered around the second-floor fountain inside the Legislative Building and belted out “This Little Light of Mine” and other songs.
They were diverse in age and backgrounds but united in voice as part of a protest movement gaining numbers in recent weeks.
In the four months since North Carolina Republicans took control of both General Assembly chambers and the governor’s mansion, the lawmakers have proposed rapid and sweeping change to the state’s electoral processes, health care policies, welfare management and publicly-funded education systems.
The Republicans, some who emerged from a protest movement of their own – the tea party dissatisfied with the cost and influence of government – contend they’re doing the business of the people who voted them into office. They say their critics are simply bitter that their party no longer is in power.
So, as the new-to-power legislators roll out bill after bill, a new wave of protesters is heading for Raleigh. The protesters say they are not radicals but everyday North Carolinians worried that the leadership of the General Assembly is reversing the state’s progress in ensuring equality, tolerance and respect for human dignity.
The dissenters plan to gather weekly at the state legislature for “Moral Mondays” – a series of demonstrations that have resulted in 50 arrests so far. They acknowledge that their concerns might be tuned out by the supermajority against them. But the protesters hope to persuade others to rise up with them and raise their voices to a future that might bring a political shift in 2014.
Thirty demonstrators were taken to the Wake County jail on Monday after capital police cited them for trespassing and disorderly conduct. A week before that, 17 people were arrested at the demonstration organized by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Though their strategies are modeled on civil rights-era protests, the trailblazers from earlier decades faced longer stints in jail, beatings and job loss.
*Oh, yeah. This is JUST like the Jim Crow era.* Never mind that there are more black folks holding elected positions in the state’s legislature and congressional delegation than any time SINCE Reconstruction. (During Reconstruction — FYI — all of those black folks holding office were REPUBLICAN.) Never mind that the group hardest hit by the economic policies of the nation’s first black president is BLACK FOLKS THEMSELVES. Stuff like that is sooooooooo inconvenient.
Ms. Blythe confirms for us that jail time CAN have an upside:
While in jail for hours, the protesters sang songs and bonded with others of similar political leanings. Van der Horst reminisced about a civil rights demonstration in Olean, N.Y., that he attended as a teen with his father.
He thought about Henry David Thoreau and the philosopher’s civil disobedience essays, and he found himself incarcerated with a history professor who taught him as an undergraduate years ago at Duke University.
That professor, William Chafe, a former dean of arts and sciences at Duke, said he and other North Carolina historians resorted to civil disobedience because they worry that the new legislative direction “threatened to destroy” the “very history” they’ve spent their lives studying and celebrating.
“We thought it was important to stand up and be heard,” Chafe said earlier this week after spending his first night in jail. “We hope that as respected historians, who some would call eminent, we can reach out to others and stir them to speak out.”
Of course, when you’re writing about saving the world, you would be remiss to neglect giving a shout-out to North Carolina’s very own Al Sharpton:
The Rev. William Barber, head of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the architect of the recent civil disobedience, said his organization was taking a multipronged approach in its fight against the Republican supermajority.
When the NAACP advocates can, they will take their fight to the courts with legal challenges. The NAACP also plans to branch out across the state to inform the public of the impact of bills. Separately, others participating in the protests plan to start recruiting and raising money for candidates in 2014.
“It takes time for people to understand what’s really happening to them and what the issues are,” Barber said. “We call this the avalanche effect, what’s going on there, and we don’t want people to experience this avalanche without knowing what’s coming. What they’re doing is regressive, extreme and race-based.”
Barber said his organization did not lightly advocate for civil disobedience. He contends that he and others tried to engage in respectful debate with legislators and the governor. “They’ve turned a deaf ear to that,” Barber said. “We want them to look the people in the eye – the people who won’t get Medicaid, the children who won’t get early childhood education – and tell them what they’re doing.
“We say, ‘If your policy is so good, then look those people in the eye and tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing.’?”
Though some describe Barber and the demonstrations organized by the NAACP as attention-grabbing moves that are less about policy and more about publicity, others in Wake County who remember similar comments made during the school redistricting fight, offer a different perspective.
Ms. Blythe manages to slip small quotes from a Thom Tillis spokesman and Dallas Woodhouse of AFP-NC in at the bottom of her story. Though, it is curious that she sought to define Americans For Prosperity as “an advocacy organization inspired by the tea party movement and founded by billionaires.” Funded by billionaires? Is that supposed to strike fear and terror in our hearts? Funny. I don’t remember any McClatchy articles citing Barber or Chris Fitzsimon of NCPolicyWatch mentioning where their funding comes from.
Overall, Ms. Blythe takes a great piece of dictation. When she gets laid off, or when her failing paper finally folds, she’s got a great future as an executive assistant for one of those *icky* capitalists or as a court reporter.