A Wake County judge dismissed cases against eight Moral Monday protesters last week, stating in part that legislative rules unconstitutionally prohibited the protesters from using signs, singing, praying and chanting as ways to speak to their legislators.
Judge Anne Salisbury also determined that legislative rules were vague and overly broad, and were unconstitutional, because they gave General Assembly police Chief Jeff Weaver unfettered discretion to subjectively decide who to arrest and for what they could be arrested.
Demonstrations called “Moral Mondays” began in spring 2013 in Raleigh in response to legislation passed by the Republican-led General Assembly. The protests are designed to keep a spotlight on what organizers view as regressive policies, particularly regarding Medicaid, unemployment benefits, abortion, voting and education.
Last summer, more than 900 people volunteered to be arrested for trespassing at the General Assembly building. The protests continued after the legislature adjourned in July, including through large gatherings in Charlotte and Asheville.
In February, thousands of North Carolina residents, including from Charlotte, held a Moral March rally in downtown Raleigh.
Referring to the General Assembly as the “People’s House,” Salisbury ruled that the North Carolina Constitution designates the General Assembly as the place for residents “to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances” under Article I, Section 12.
Salisbury’s dismissal of the cases came two weeks after Judge Joy Hamilton dismissed five others.
In a statement Friday, the Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, praised the rulings. “Like the other 932 people who were arrested in 2013 and the more than 60 who have already been arrested in 2014 at the People’s House, these 13 moral witnesses were merely attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to petition their lawmakers for the redress of grievances,” Barber said.