Over the weekend, the INDY reported on state representative Michael Speciale's comments about the hundreds of people who crammed into the legislative building last week in protest of the surprise fourth special session. Specifically, this comment, which the New Bern Republican posted on Facebook Friday: "A group of malcontent thugs who are likely paid and bussed in to disrupt the business of those who represent the people detracts from the ability of the peoples [sic] government to effectively do their [sic] jobs."
Speciale wasn't the only Republican who suggested the protesters were hired guns; Representative David Lewis was similarly dismissive. "I asked a couple of the protesters what they were protesting," Lewis told reporters Thursday. "They weren't sure. They were sure that they had been paid, got free lunch and transportation."
Some of these maligned "malcontent thugs" responded, both on our Twitter feed and our website's comments section. So we figured we'd use this space to give them their say.
Chuck Lewis: "No one paid me on Tuesday and Thursday to support the NAACP effort to shine a light on the Republican power grab in the state house."
Janine Latus: "I'm heading to the state house in an hour. No food, no free transportation, no lunch. Get serious."
@jbphebus: "I was not paid to walk the few blocks to yell at the trash that is the NCGOP for hijacking the state."
@Juselkus: "We paid for lunch in the basement ourselves, don't need to get paid to donate my time for this purpose."
Natalie Herr: "I was there and I know exactly why. Special session 4 was illegally planned in secret as a power grab and a jab at Cooper's support."
Marena Groll: "I was there to bear witness against the immorality of the actions of some of these legislators. I was born and raised in Fayetteville. I am presently living in Durham. No one paid me, but I want to know if someone paid those legislators to undermine the incoming governor. Have any investigations been conducted into their financial dealings?"
Aylett Colston: "I was there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I was born in North Carolina, grew up here, and now I am raising my children here. I was there because I love this state and its people, and I cannot sit by and watch as the elected leaders entrusted to act in the best interest of North Carolinians do harmful things, like when they passed HB 2. My friends who had planned on joining me on Tuesday ended up not being able to go—but they still wanted to help. I asked them to send food—and they did. I personally took delivery of pizza and water that was sent in on Tuesday, and none of it was paid for by the NAACP or any organization. I should have been home with my children getting ready for Christmas, but because the General Assembly has continually betrayed the very spirit of honest, open dialogue and debate upon which our country was founded, well, I felt that there was no choice but to go and bear witness."
Irgeffner: "I am outraged at these claims. I was at the legislature much of last week. Everyone who I came into contact with (dozens and dozens of people) were there missing work, rearranging childcare plans, or canceling other appointments to volunteer their time and stand up for justice, civil discourse, and the rights of the citizens of our state in the House of the People."
Finally, chappa hillian makes an important point: "The tactic is Trumpian misdirection. Say something outrageously untrue and laugh while people do cartwheels to refute it. All the while, what aren't people talking about? The real issue, of course. The clearly unethical attempt—forget legal, I'm talking ethics—to steal the governor's power because they couldn't steal the governor's office."