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~Monday~ In the early afternoon today, I suddenly decided that I'd go to the "Moral Monday" protests that have been going on for weeks upon weeks now, in downtown Raleigh.

This is how it's described as follows in Wikipedia:

"Moral Mondays" Protests

The bills signed into law by McCrory and proposed legislation have been the target of ongoing "Moral Mondays" civil disobedience protests, organized in part by local religious leaders[71][72] including William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Since the start of April, more than 600 demonstrators have been arrested in the course of the protests,[73] and police have estimated attendance at >1,000.[70] Cited reasons for the protests include legislation recently passed or proposed on changes to Medicaid, changes to voting regulations, school vouchers, and tax reform.[72][71] McCrory has criticized the protests as unlawful and a drain on state resources,[73] and has declined to meet with them[72] and has said "Outsiders are coming in and they're going to try to do to us what they did to Scott Walker in Wisconsin."[74]


I parked near the R-Line (which is the free bus that loops around downtown Raleigh) stop on Morgan Street, and since I had to wait about 20 minutes for the bus, I dropped into The Borough (my favorite Raleigh watering hole) and had a bourbon and Diet Coke (my favorite adult beverage) while I waited.

On the R-Line, I was delighted to run into Eleanor Mehlenbacher, who wasn't en route to the protest, and who sat next to me for the couple of stops for which we were on the bus together. Such a delight.

I had to walk a short block from where I got off the bus to the protest area, called Halifax Mall. I loved that there were so many people there who didn't look like me.

Here's a picture of my first look at the crowd:


It's hard to see him, but the Reverend Dr. William Barber, the president of the NC NAACP and de facto leader of the movement—with the red sash around his neck, in the very middle of the picture in the first row of people from the skyline—was speaking when I arrived. What a fantastic orator. I loved the cadence of his rhetoric, and I thought of Martin Luther King, while I listened to him.

While listening to his speech, someone handed me a clipboard and asked me to sign it. There was a column in which to sign your name, and one other column for a piece of information I can't remember—I think it was your email address, but I'm not sure.

The young man said, "It's sort of an attendance roster, I believe," and I wanted to say, "Well I'm not going to sign this for you if you can't even articulate what it's for," but he turned away, and that's when I realized someone had just handed it to him, and I was just supposed to hand it to someone else after I signed it.

I wasn't into all that, so after I signed it, I just sat it down on a nearby ledge. Such a bad grassrootser. I want somebody to be in charge and tell me the rules.

I started to make my way closer to the speaker, and I was surprised to hear my name called out, and delighted to identify its owner as my friend Etta, whom I was not a bit surprised to see at such an event.

She told me that she had attended the earlier—3:00—event, which is alluded to here (circled in red), where information was provided for those who might end up being arrested.


She wasn't planning on being arrested, but it made me smile that she wanted to be fully prepared if it did end up happening.

Bidding adieu to Etta, I made my way over to the speaker for a closer up picture of him:

Barber speaking to the crowd

At some point during his speech, he pointed to where the legislature actually meets, which being a first-timer to these protests that have been going on for weeks now, I didn't realize was behind us.

I took this picture of it, noting the cops that were up on the balcony as well as in the walkway leading up to the building:


I assumed the hot, bald guy on the ground in the middle of the picture was some kind of SBI agent, or personal gubernatorial body guard, or some such Chief of Something-Or-Other. I watched him a lot throughout the event.

After about 20 minutes or so, I made my way over to that area. As I watched people going in and out of the building, I was wondering how it was all going to "go down," which is to say how the people who were going to perform "an act of civil disobedience" were going to be arrested.

At first, I thought you had to have some kind of badge or credentials to get past this trio and enter the building, but the more I watched, the more it became clear that anybody could go in there, and shortly after that, I became anybody.

Inside the building, I actually sat on the floor in the downstairs lobby—which was pretty deserted—for about ten minutes, charging my phone, whose battery was down to about 25% with all the "Facebooking" and picture-taking and posting I'd been doing, and I wanted it to be stronger for the pictures I'd planned to take in the next hour or so.

With it up to about 50%, I made my way to a hall, where I'd seen people going in attempt to get upstairs. As I approached an elevator that I'd just seen a couple of people using, one of the guards who worked in the building was pulling a bench in front of it, and when I asked if I could get upstairs, she said, "We're closing this elevator off now. Do you know where the other one is?"

"No," I said.

"Let me show you. It's around here, and there are some stairs, too."

"I don't mind taking the stairs," I said.

"They're right there, then," she said pointing across the room, very near where I had been sitting to charge my battery, in fact.

Then I asked, "So, what floor should I go up to? I've never been here before."

"Well... do you want to..." she asked me just letting it trail off like that.

"I don't want to get arrested," I replied.

She smiled and said, "Then you want to go up to the third floor. And it's better to get up there sooner than later," she added.

I came out onto a balcony on the third floor, and I took this picture overlooking Halifax Mall, where I'd been listening to the speeches previously, and from where I'd taken the picture of the building I was now in:

Halifax Mall, where the speeches were taking place

After a couple of pictures from there, I sat on a nearby wall, where there was an outdoor plug, and I plugged my phone in for a little more charge. After about ten minutes, I made my way inside and took a place in the rotunda along one of the last few spaces available at the rail.

This is the view from the rail, before all of the people who were outside started coming in. Directly across from me (the second and third people from the left) were my friends Traci and Zachary.

Balcony view with empty 2nd floor

The crowd just kept growing on the floor we were on, and once the people, including those volunteering to be arrested, started filing in on the second floor, everyone on the third floor wanted a coveted spot along the rail for the best view.

At the last minute, a short, older lady who had just come in, and who was behind and between me and the guy to my right said, "Excuse me. Excuse me," pushing her hand between us trying to insert herself where there was clearly no room.

"I just want to be able to see. It's terrible being short," she said trying to work the sympathy angle.

I loved the response from the guy to my right, which was not sympathetic, but called her out on the real issue, "Yeah, that's why we got here early."

She didn't bother us again.

With the folks now inside on the second floor, the Rev. Dr. Barber started talking, and people starting shushing everyone, since there were no microphones in there.

He started off with some kind of prayer, which is a good opportunity for me to say that there was a little too much Jesus for my taste in the protest speeches overall, but I accept that as part of the "rainbow coalition," and (after all) the speaker (this one, at least) is a reverend, and he is giving his heart and soul to this movement.

The Rev. Dr. Barber offering up a prayer

Next, a few of the people who were becoming what I coined "de-moc-ra-ficial lambs" told their stories of how the decisions being made by this legislature are affecting real people in real life.

The 'sacrificial lambs' talking before their arrest

At one point, the people broke into song—Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around—during which I took a 26-second video:



Not too long after that, the five-minute warning to vacate the area was given to the folks on the second floor, and everyone who did not want to be arrested started dispersing. I got this very poor quality shot of the first person being arrested:

FirstArrest

When the guy being arrested in the next picture told his story earlier, he was so passionate about living, and loving living, in North Carolina, and he really rallied those present with fist-shaking and chants:

Passionate man arrest

And finally, the others turned in line, like walking to the slaughterhouse, to get the white plastic wires that served as cuffs put around their wrists.

Line to get arrested

I didn't stay until everyone was arrested, and I later learned that people stay late into the night, and follow those who have been arrested as they are transported by bus to the jail to be "processed."

There is a great article by someone who has been arrested, which gives interesting insight into that 3:00 "prep to be arrested" meeting, at which they ask you to don green arm bands if you want to be arrested and blue ones if you just want to support someone who is going to be arrested, or if you've been arrested yourself in the past: How to Get Arrested on Moral Monday: A North Carolina Minister's Protest.

I caught the R-Line back to The Borough, where I had dinner and a couple of drinks, while I enumerated my thoughts and observations:

  • I'm glad I went today. All-in-all it was a very educational and engaging experience.

  • I've been an activist a lot over the years, but it has almost been exclusively around LGBT issues, so this was a nice change in that respect.

  • I liked a lot of the signs. Some were very, very clever, some were funny, most were respectful, and they all functioned as a speech bubble above the heads of people to reveal what they were passionate about.

  • Attending this event was a "stretch" for me. I am an "observer of traditions," and a "nurturer of established institutions," and am "inclined to following the rules," which explains why this was my first protest at the ripe young age of 55. I remember the first time I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Question authority!" I was appalled.

  • At times, I was mesmerized by what I think of as "the culture of protest"—things like: code words for things, starting and/or knowing certain chants and responses to chants, and breaking into (a protest) song that most people seemed to know.

  • I want to go back again to see things that I didn't see this time, see things that I did see, but would like to see again from a different angle or perspective, and just to earn complaining rights about what this administration is doing to this beloved state.

If you've been to Moral Monday, what are some of your thoughts and observations?
 

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jul. 11th, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
Appreciated your reporting on this
John,
Thanks for sharing your experience and providing an "insider's" glimpse at what has been going on.
Sarah
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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