Update: At 6:30, sit-in is still taking place in Thom Tillis's office with protestors vowing to stay all night. Pizzas have been delivered. Police have cleared out. Most of those sitting in are fast food workers, making $7.25 an hour. The majority of the Moral Monday protestors having gone home, the GA and Raleigh police withdrew, leaving just a small gathering of media and faithful. Rev. Barber held a press conference outside of Tillis's office, stating "Speaker Thom Tillis and his aides have refused to engage in a serious discussion over the deep and weighty issues, and now they are playing a waiting game in hopes that we will lose heart, pack up and go home. But we are not here to play games. We shall not be moved. We are settling in for a long night at the General Assembly."
15 fast food workers and faith leaders doing a sit-in in Tillis's office
There is a mural in the interior mall of the Legislative Complex with phrases like love worked, where discipline failed
, and by example, almost never by words.
These messages seemed apt in the background of today's Moral Monday event. Today at 12:30 a panoply of North Carolinians gathered under a tent on Halifax Mall for a “Forward Together Moral Movement People’s Lobby & Advocacy Day.” Reverend William Barber opened the event by reminding the gathered “this movement is not Democrat or Republican—it’s about deep issues, moral issues.” To reinforce the point, he read a series of quotes from Lincoln Republicans in the first Reconstruction, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr., all supporting the notion of a living wage, equal rights, against economic oligarchy and the concentration of wealth.
Reverend Barber was followed by short lectures from a group of scholars from Wake Forest University, Duke, and UNC, who gave briefings on the major public policy stances of the Moral Monday movement—allowing Medicaid expansion, permitting Earned Income Tax Credit, repudiating the Voter ID law, revoking tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses, and reversing regressive public education amendments and programs. The last speaker, Rob Schofield from NC Policy Watch reminded the protestors “we should harbor no illusion that things were great with the Democrats before this last GA session. This movement is about pushing things further.”
With the discipline, strategy, and organization that have come to define the Moral Monday movement, the gathered entered the Legislative Building and small groups entered offices, attempting to directly lobby legislators. Many of the groups ended up having in-depth conversations with secretaries and aides, but at least one Republican, Charles Jeter R-Mecklenberg, came out and defended his policy positions to the citizens, saying, “I voted against my caucus on a couple of issues!”
Upstairs on the roof of the Legislative building, Reverend Barber held a small conference and said a prayer with a group of young, mostly black fast food workers from the coalition NC Raise Up!—workers pushing for a $15 minimum wage—who had committed themselves to doing a non-violent civil disobedience in Speaker of the House and now Senate hopeful Thom Tillis’s office.
A group of about 8 fast food workers with NC Raise Up! and faith leaders made their way into Thom Tillis’s office and staged a sit-in. General Assembly police came with video recorders, taping the crowd, and pushing back the media while those sitting in sang “We Shall Not Be Moved” and other spirituals.
Raleigh Police were called into the upstairs rotunda and a stand-off situation around the sit-in in Rep. Tillis’s office was initiated—GA staff shooed off the media and closed the door of the office, without arresting those inside—for three hours, Raleigh police stood blocking the office, the sit-in protestors inside, with the Moral Monday supporters waiting outside in solidarity. To avoid a media spectacle, GA police decided to wait them out. The Moral Monday movement had pizza delivered.
Moral Monday will continue throughout June, with next Monday’s protest focusing on environmental issues, the following on public education, and a third on labor rights.