by Bob Geary
(Update:The public comment period of the school board meeting just ended — dissolved, actually, as the final speaker, who was wearing an NAACP shirt, launched into a chant of "Forward, Ever/Backward, Never!" and suddenly, WRAL-'s online feed ended and a slate came up saying the meeting was in recess. Like many, I can't be there and am watching the TV station's feed. Just got a pair of emails from folks who are there saying about 10 more people were arrested, apparently for refusing to stop the chanting.
(Not sure who's live-blogging for WRAL, but h/she's doing a great job:
5:10 p.m. — Chair Ron Margiotta came back into the board's meeting room to speak with the remaining crowd. He said the board would hear 10 more speakers when members came back, then hear the remainder of the speakers list at the end of the meeting.
Rev. Paul Anderson told the crowd that seemed like "a fair compromise" and asked the audience to go back to its seats.
"Thank you. We needed a leader right now," one audience member said to Anderson as people calmed down and went back to sitting.
5 p.m. — Police carried protesters from the Wake County Board of Education meeting Tuesday as others sang "We Shall Overcome" and chanted "Segregation Never."
It appeared for a few moments that board member Keith Sutton was going to be arrested when he was in the midst of the protesters at the speaker's podium. Raleigh police had Sutton's hands behind him and looked as if he would be handcuffed in the confusion. Shortly after, however, he was led from a side door after officers realized he was a board member, not a protester.
Following the pro-diversity rally, State NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, were arrested by Raleigh police for trying to enter the Wake school system's building at 3600 Wake Forest Rd. to attend today's Wake school board meeting. Barber and Petty were barred from attending the meeting by School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta because of their arrest for trespassing at a board meeting last month. Barber, Petty, Duke historian Tim Tyson and Mary D. Williams, a gospel singer and Raleigh parent, went to the front of the meeting last month and refused to sit down, leading to their arrests.
WRAL-TV reported that three were arrested; the third person was named Gregory Moss, and he was charged with resisting arrest.
It's not clear whether Margiotta was acting lawfully when he barred the four from attending a public meeting. The fact that they'd undertaken an act of civil disobedience at the prior meeting did not dictate that their actions today would've been a repeat; also, none of the four have been to trial on the misdemeanor trespassing charge.
Barber released an open letter to Margiotta Tuesday saying that he had "no intention of even coming to your meeting" Tuesday, but people at the rally pressed him to.
"Show some southern hospitality and invite us into the public meeting and to speak if the spirit moves us," he wrote. "If, after we speak, you believe we are disrupting the public meeting, then and only then, do you have the right to ask us to desist, and then and only then can you exercise the powers of the state to arrest us."