Politics & Government

NAACP’s Rev. William Barber among those banned from NC Legislative Building

Rev. William Barber II, president of the NC NAACP, is led away by General Assembly police after being arrested in front of Sen. Phil Berger’s office during a sit-in Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Barber is currently banned from entering the Legislative Building following the arrest.
Rev. William Barber II, president of the NC NAACP, is led away by General Assembly police after being arrested in front of Sen. Phil Berger’s office during a sit-in Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Barber is currently banned from entering the Legislative Building following the arrest. tlong@newsobserver.com

The Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president, has been banned from entering the N.C. Legislative Building following his arrest during a protest there on May 30.

The ban also applies to 31 other protesters arrested that day during a health-care sit-in after they refused to clear the hallways outside legislative leaders’ office. The ban was a condition of the protesters’ release from jail, set by Wake County magistrate Jeffrey L. Godwin as he charged them with second-degree trespassing.

General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock said Friday that his agency didn’t ask the magistrate to set those conditions, but he said he plans to make the request for future arrests of protesters.

“I intend to instruct the officer to ask, especially if the person has been arrested before,” Brock said.

Asked why the bans are needed, Brock said, “If someone has been arrested two or three times, would it be reasonable to expect that they would be arrested again? That would be my observation.”

Geeta Kapur, an attorney for Barber and the NAACP, says the ban is unconstitutional. She points to the provision in the state constitution that says “the people have a right to assemble together ... to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances.”

“The only way you can petition a legislator is by going to the legislature,” Kapur said. “We take this to be an intimidation tactic. We’re not going to take that lightly.

“As long as they are not causing a disturbance or interfering with the business of the legislature, they still have an absolute right to go to the public building to exercise their constitutional rights.”

She pointed to a 2013 decision by a judge to throw out a similar ban on arrested protesters. Since then, most arrests at “Moral Monday” protest events have not included a ban on entering the Legislative Building as a condition of release.

Kapur says she’ll ask a judge to lift the ban when the first cases from the May 30 arrests are heard in court on June 26.

The ban meant that Barber couldn’t join fellow NAACP activists on Tuesday when they delivered letters to legislative leaders’ offices calling on them to immediately start redrawing political maps that the courts have struck down and stop all other business. Some of those activists were threatened with arrest when they entered House Speaker Tim Moore’s office.

During Tuesday’s event, Barber held a news conference in front of the legislature but did not go inside. Brock said he interprets the ban to include only the inside of the building, and Barber is still allowed in the outdoor areas of the property.

Barber is the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro and the architect of the Moral Monday movement, a series of protests over the past five years on behalf of the poor and the disenfranchised and against a variety of moves by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Barber announced in May that he planned to step down this month as head of the state chapter of the NAACP to help organize a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., and 25 states.

On Wednesday, Brock and Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble – who made the arrest threat on Tuesday – sent Barber a letter reminding him of the ban.

“Your release orders clearly state that you are not to go back to the North Carolina Legislative Building unless authorized to do so,” Brock and Coble wrote. “At this time, I have not authorized you to return and this prohibition will be enforced until the resolution of your case in court.”

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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