Photo by Justin Cook
The Rev. William Barber
The Reverend William Barber II has been told to keep away from the main General Assembly building
until his return to court June 30 on trespassing charges brought at the legislature May 30.
However, the Goldsboro-based civil rights leader said Friday that similar attempts to ban him and other protesters have been made in the past but had been overturned. Barber’s lawyer criticized the restriction as unconstitutional under both the state and U.S. founding documents.
"They banned all of us," Barber, fifty-three, told the INDY
via text message Friday. "They've done it before and the courts change it[,] smile."
Barber and other demonstrators were arrested at 16 West Jones Street on May 30 as part of a health care protest. As a condition of pretrial release, Wake County Magistrate Jeffrey L. Godwin ordered Barber not to return to the building, according to a letter sent to Barber Wednesday by Paul Coble, legislative services officer.
"At this time, I have not authorized you to return and this prohibition will be enforced until the resolution of your case in court," wrote Coble, a former Raleigh mayor and Wake County commissioner.
In past Wake County cases where magistrates have imposed a similar restriction, district court judges have struck down the condition barring the defendant from a public building, court records show.
Barber served as the state director of the NAACP for 12 years. Members of that organization and other civil rights groups gathered Sunday in Durham to celebrate his leadership and his new role as leader of a national Poor People's Campaign.
Durham attorney Geeta Kapur, representing Barber, said Friday that the restriction violates the First Amendment, as well as the presumption of innocence.
"Our position is that it's an unconstitutional restriction, banning a North Carolina citizen from a public building," she said. "Article One, Section Twelve of the state constitution gives them the right to petition for redress of their grievances. Reverend Barber still has concerns. May 30 did not resolve his concerns."
Lieutenant Leonard Gabourel of the General Assembly Police said Barber was barred from the building but could still gain entrance to other public buildings such as the nearby Legislative Office Building.