Progress NC Garden Party at Executive Mansion Canceled, Celebrations For Racist Senator's Staffers Still OK Though | News

Progress NC Garden Party at Executive Mansion Canceled, Celebrations For Racist Senator's Staffers Still OK Though

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The Governor's office has released a statement canceling the anti-HB 2 "garden party" that was supposed to happen at the Governor's mansion tonight, saying that Progress NC was planning a "coordinated political protest" rather than the event that was "agreed up on in its contract." So much for free speech. 

Per Colin Campbell:
Earlier in the day, Progress NC was forced to cut its guestlist for the party from 230 to just fifty people. Lukas Hodge, who has done photo work for INDY Week, sent this along to us:

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Back on May 25, the Executive Mansion was rented out for a night to "Jesse Helms Alumni and Friends" to celebrate both Bill Cobey, a former Jesse Helms staffer, and also to celebrate Ronald Reagan's primary win in 1976. Here's what McCrory communications director Josh Ellis told WRAL back then:

"They are paying to use the facility like any other nonprofit would," said Josh Ellis, McCrory's communications director. 

Other groups that have rented the mansion for recent events have included the Junior League of Raleigh, the AKA African-American sorority, the North Carolina Science Festival, the Girl Scouts Association and the North Carolina Council for Women. 

"It's a whole diverse group of folks that rent it," Ellis said. "We have not said no to any nonprofit that's asked (to rent it) during his time in office."

And here's what Jesse Helms Center COO Brian Rogers told us when we asked if we could attend that party for the racist Senator's staffer. 

Thank you for your interest in the Jesse Helms Center.  This reception at the Governor’s Mansion was planned earlier this winter and is for the alumni who worked for Senator Helms and Helms Center friends.  This is a private event by invitation only.  There is nothing to report other than a simple gathering among old friends and an opportunity to recognize Bill Cobey for his service to our board of directors.  No one is speaking other than Mr. Dodd, JHC president, and a maybe few remarks by Bill Cobey.  The news report yesterday tried to tie this into some sort of controversy concerning HB2 and this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any legislation or politics. This is not a fundraiser. Like other non-profit organizations around North Carolina we signed a basic contract to hold our event at the Mansion.

Just to recap: a celebration of Republican politics sponsored by a center charged with upholding the legacy of one of the most vile people to serve in the U.S. Senate in the 20th century is good, but an event sponsored by a group that opposes HB 2 is bad. Free speech seems to be alive and well. 

We've left a message for the Governor's office asking for comment, and will update if we hear anything else. 

UPDATE: Progress NC has released a statement.

“Gov. McCrory’s staff explained how the Jesse Helms Center could rent the Executive Mansion by claiming all nonprofits could do the same,” said Gerrick Brenner, Progress North Carolina's executive director. “That is now clearly shown to be false. Progress NC did not violate a rental contract. The Governor’s Office canceled our ‘Garden Party Against Hate’ because they don’t like the groups involved or the message they share. Period.”

UPDATE II: The governor's office released the contract, as well as some Facebook posts by former INDY Week managing editor Grayson Haver Currin, INDY Week contributor Tina Haver Currin, and Logan Smith, Progress NC's communications director. It's worth noting that while the Helms Center event was $40 a head (although they denied it was a fundraiser), Progress NC's garden party was going to be completely free.

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