RALEIGH With concerns about fracking, coal ash pollution, access to health care and fiscal policies that limit benefits for those struggling economically, several dozen demonstrators walked into the N.C. Capitol on Monday with demands for the governor.
They had a letter they wanted to deliver, but Gov. Pat McCrory was not in the building and the protesters had not made an appointment.
When the State Capitol Police asked everybody to leave about seven minutes after 5 p.m., the routine closing time, 11 protesters settled onto the floor for the second capital city sit-in this legislative session.
Media crews and other demonstrators exited upon request. Most of the demonstrators proceeded to Halifax Mall, the grassy area between the N.C. Legislative Building and offices where legislators, their staffs and other state employees work.
Most of the media began a wait that has marked many of the so-called Moral Monday protests that resulted in 945 arrests last year. The demonstrations focused national media attention on a 2013 Republican-led agenda that took North Carolina on a sharp swing to the political right.
About two hours after closing the N.C. Capitol doors, police opened them a crack in two waves to release the demonstrators who staged the sit-in.
Five were released in the first wave on the Fayetteville Street side of the Capitol. Then six were released on the east side of the historic building to cheers and song from nearly 200 ralliers.
Glen Allen, chief of the State Capitol Police, said each demonstrator had been detained, then cited for second-degree trespass, a misdemeanor that requires them to go to court.
Allen said he cited the demonstrators instead of arresting them because the procedure would not be as taxing on the courts.
The citation accomplishes the same thing without burdening the system, Allen said afterward.
Protest follows pattern
On May 27, the Tuesday after Memorial Day, 15 protesters held a sit-in at the offices of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis in the N.C. Legislative Building, just a short walk from the state Capitol.
Fourteen of the protesters in Tillis office were arrested about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday and charged with second-degree trespass after refusing to leave after repeated requests to do so from the N.C. General Assembly police force.
The protesters who assembled on Halifax Mall on Monday had letters they wanted to deliver to Tillis and Phil Berger, the N.C. Senate leader.
But the legislators did not meet for their routine Monday night session after holding long sessions during the weekend about the state budget.
The Legislative Building was closed, and the protesters were unable to get inside to deliver their message.
The Rev. William Barber, the head of the state NAACP and a major organizer of the demonstrations, said later that shifting schedules would not deter him or others.
Were not going anywhere, Barber said on the Capitol steps shortly after the newly cited protesters emerged from the building.
Repeal, reversal asked
Deborah Ferruccio, a Warren County resident holding one of the pink citations issued by the Capitol police, said she has written many letters to McCrory, hoping to get his attention about environmental issues of concern to her. Ferruccio said she had not heard back from McCrory though other North Carolina governors have responded to her in the past.
Justin Miller of Charlotte, James Tyson of Charlotte and Colin Miller, 32, of Winston-Salem also were on the Capitol steps with Rakhee Devasthali, a Carrboro resident.
They all were cited for second-degree trespass in the Capitol on Monday, and all were troubled by environmental policies and the failure to expand Medicaid. They hope to persuade the governor to reverse course and repeal the actions from 2013.
We recognize that reversing these actions will not solve every problem that our state faces, one of the NAACP letters for McCrory stated. We ask that you reverse course because your actions have made challenging situations even more painful for so many.
We call on you today to reverse course by repenting, repealing and restoring our state to higher ground by eliminating the laws and policies pushed by this N.C. Legislature, led by Speaker Tillis and Senate Leader Berger and signed by you.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1
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