Tag Archive for Moral Mondays

Why I go to Raleigh for Moral Mondays

This is from two weeks ago, when we had about 2,000 people. We had about the same size crowd last Monday when there was a tornado watch. We are dedicated to making change.

This is from two weeks ago, when we had about 2,000 people. We had about the same size crowd last Monday when there was a tornado watch. We are dedicated to making change.

I think it’s important to talk about Moral Mondays here,  to explain why I got involved, why I got arrested on May 13, and why I continue to go for the rallies.

First of all, let me say in response to those who say we can’t accomplish anything with these demonstrations, I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t think we could make a difference, and I am willing to tolerate the vitriol of people who would discourage us because I think they are afraid of us and what we stand for.

I go because I feel a moral obligation to protest the General Assembly’s and the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Their ideological decision puts a half-million lives at risk in this state, and estimates are that at least 2,000 will die prematurely because of this decision,

Those lives matter to me. Each one of them matters. I don’t care if it is a homeless person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. I believe each life has worth. If you don’t believe the same, please don’t call yourself pro-life in front of me.

My primary passion is health care, but when we take away unemployment compensation from more than 70,000 people, it has consequences. Most of them also lack access to health care because you can’t pay for COBRA if you don’t have any income, and most adults aren’t eligible for Medicaid here in NC.

When we de-fund schools, we rob children of the chance to rise out of poverty and provide for themselves and their families. They also will be the ones most likely to not have access to health care later on.

These issues are deeply connected to each other. Living wage impacts poverty, and all the stresses that come with it. People who have enough to live on are healthier overall because they don’t have the stresses associated with poverty.

I have visited my legislators repeatedly to educate them on the importance of access to health care and about the lower costs associated with access to care. My representative voted against Medicaid expansion. He voted to cut unemployment benefits. He supports a voter ID law that is a thinly disguised poll tax.

I am frustrated beyond words. I cannot fathom the reasoning behind barring access to health care for 500,000 people.

Our state’s computer system is their first excuse. It isn’t up to the task, they say. But then they decline to mention that we turned down federal money to upgrade the system.

When I reminded them of that, they said we have to fix Medicaid first. Well, North Carolina’s Medicaid system was a national model until its funding was slashed two years ago. Restore the funding and the system will be a model again. Instead, though, they are going to try and privatize it the way they did with the mental health system a decade ago. That “reform,” you may recall, was an unmitigated disaster.

When I explain that, they usually have a meeting they have to rush off to.

They aren’t listening, and it frustrates those of us who oppose what they’re doing. My heart breaks for people who will die because of these misguided decisions; it breaks for the families of those casualties.

Unless you have held the hand of a loved one as he or she dies unnecessarily, you can’t know the pain.

As a person of faith, I take seriously the Bible’s instruction to care for “the least of these.” And it is not just Christianity that requires this of people; it is a basic tenet of every major religion, and it is important to just about every atheist I know.

That’s why nearly 400 people have gone into the Legislature Building and been arrested. Dozens of them are clergy. Some are teachers and professors, students, old, young, black, white, Asian, hippies and lawyers.  This is a diverse crowd, and its members are passionate about justice for all North Carolinians, not just the wealthiest.

As the ones being arrested go into the building, they are cheered by a crowd of thousands. Hundreds of people move to the side of the building to await the departure of prison buses filled with people who are not afraid to speak truth to power.

When I was arrested, those cheering voices assured me I was doing the right thing. They gave me courage and hope.

I do not go to Moral Mondays for political reasons; I go for moral reasons. I go because if I do nothing, I am as much to blame as those taking the immoral actions.

I go because every life has worth.

We the people mean business

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

This was taken May 13, the night I got arrested.

Moral Monday is rolling around again, and I plan to go to Raleigh to support those people who are volunteering to be arrested.

I was arrested on May 13 and I am banned from Legislature property until my case is resolved. I go to court on July 1.

My friend, Sarah Skinner, and I are going and there’s room for two or three more people in my car. If we get enough people we can rent a 12-passenger van for the trip.

Sarah has been my traveling companion on several trips, including two to Washington for rallies and another two for the Occupy movement and one to Charlotte to take part in the Planned Parenthood demonstration during the Democratic National Convention.

We are fellow unreconstructed hippies.

Because Sarah is a breast cancer survivor, she started dying her hair pink during October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now she calls the pink hair her “war paint,” so you’ll be able to spot us on Monday by her shocking pink mop-top.

We need more people to go to Raleigh and tell the General Assembly they work for us, and we are not happy. They may think we’re a nuisance, but they’re about to find out we’re much more than that — we are a movement.

So far, 157 people have been arrested for second-degree trespass, which is a misdemeanor. I doubt we’ll be placed on the no-fly list or locked up for an extended period.

I spent three hours in the jailhouse — some of the early protesters who were arrested have spent as much as eight or nine hours being processed. I think the processing is streamlined now that they know we’re going to be there in ever-increasing numbers.

I went to protest the refusal to expand Medicaid and the proposal to privatize it; others were there to protest the laws that harm unemployed people, students, workers, the environment, voters and low-income people.

There are so many reasons to protest it’s hard to pick just one. I have never seen anything like this group of legislators, and I’ve been aware of government abuses of power for 50 years.

When I have tried talking to these legislators, I get the brush-off or I get excuses filled with half-truths and out-and-out lies. When you call them on their lies, they change the subject or move on to another talking point. They aren’t listening.

They were elected to serve us, not corporate overlords, and yet they are serving the wealthiest and most powerful at our expense.

Sen. Tom Apodaca said we should know how he feels and he isn’t about to change his mind, no matter what the people think.

I don’t know what it will take to change the minds of some legislators, but we only need to reach a few to stop them from having a super-majority. Then we can work to throw the bums out in 2014.

As I said, Sarah and I are going. Anyone want to join us?

If you’re don’t stand up to protest injustice, you become part of it.

Standing for justice

singingI stood with 48 other people from all across North Carolina as we were arrested for second degree trespass and loud singing.

 

This was the third “Moral Monday,” in which demonstrators go into the NC Legislature Building and refuse to leave.

Two weeks ago, there were just a few demonstrators, and 19 were arrested.

The action, led by the NC NAACP, is to protest the avalanche of backward legislation coming out of the General Assembly. Many of us have tried to talk to our legislators and have gotten nowhere. We’re met with lies and half-truths about the laws they’re passing — if they meet with us at all.

Tim Moffitt, my representative, called the Voter ID law a leg-up for people trying to get out of poverty because an ID will help them get a job.

“I wouldn’t hire somebody without a photo ID,” he said. “Would you?”

Actually, I would hire someone who doesn’t have a license, I said.

“I call it a $6 investment in someone’s future,” he said.

That would be fine as long as someone doesn’t need that $6 for food.

Nathan Ramsey told me we can’t expand Medicaid because the state’s computer system isn’t ready for it. I told him I happen to know we turned down federal money to get it ready. Then he said, “we have to fix Medicaid before we can expand it.”

I told him our Medicaid system was a national model until it was seriously under-funded two years ago, so all we have to do is fully fund it again.

They’re used to dealing with people who aren’t familiar enough with issues to see through a snow job, I guess.

We have e-mailed and called and gone in person to talk to legislators who don’t give a damn what we think or what’s best for the people they supposedly serve. They have said as much with their actions and even with such words as, “I am the Senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”

Each week’s bills have become more outrageous than the week before and there’s not any let-up.

Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP, led a group of about 300 of us into the building a month ago and we delivered letters to legislators, who ignored us. Thom Tillis actually ran away from us.

So, two weeks ago, a few dozen people went into the Legislature Building, “The People’s House,” as the Rev. Barber calls it, and 19 refused to leave. They were arrested.

Last week, more people went and 30 were arrested.

Last night, hundreds of people went in, singing and chanting, and 49 of us were arrested.

I have never been arrested before, but it is time to stand up for justice.

My issue is health care, but they have attacked us on so many fronts, we have united to say we will not stand for these injustices. As we chanted last night, “The people, united, will never be defeated!”

We were arrested as we sang “We Shall not be Moved,” and led away with our hands bound by zip-ties, still singing as they loaded us onto the elevator. We had our belongings taken from us and were loaded onto a bus, where we chanted and sang some more. We worked together to open the bus windows to alleviate the stifling heat. Of course, that allowed our chants and songs to be heard by the crowd of hundreds across the street, who cheered and waved as each of us was loaded onto the bus, still singing.

As the bus pulled out, we chanted, “The people, united, will never be defeated!” People standing on the sidewalk said they could hear us and several were moved to tears.

We were proud, we were defiant; we were not intimidated, and we chanted all the way to the jailhouse. The chant became musical and some people began to harmonize. It was a beautiful, powerful sound and it gave each of us courage.

Once in the jailhouse garage, we began to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” and we continued to sing as we were led inside and placed on steel benches, our voices echoing in the cavernous garage.

One by one, our zip-ties were removed and we were searched and processed. One person began to sing, “Freedom, freedom freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom,” and soon several of us were singing and harmonizing. The song became a prayer as we swayed and sang, and the police watched.

We were processed, one by one, and moved to the next bench, where we sang again.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, oh-oh, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom.”

They made us take our shoelaces out of our shoes and we joked about how much cuter our shoes had been with laces as they flopped when we walked.

Those of us who have been arrested have been banned from the Legislative Building until our court cases have been resolved, so the people who were arrested in previous weeks stood across the street, singing and chanting encouragement.

The first of us were released in about three hours, and we were met by a cheering crowd that included a legislator or two. We walked into the waiting arms of Rev. Barber and Rev. Curtis Gatewood, and then were led to food and drink before we were shuttled back to our cars.

I spent the night with my friend, Carol, who stayed up until after 2 a.m. with me, searching the Web for news of the Moral Mondays demonstration. I had seen the first news report while we were being booked on News 14, and now there were several.

State Sen. Tom Apodaca called us a “nuisance,” and said we all should know by now that he doesn’t care what we think.

Well, I believe the movement will grow. I believe the legislators will have to care because we will not go away. Those of us who have been arrested and threatened with real jail time if we go back will be replaced by people who will join the movement. Each week it will grow.

Moral Mondays will continue for awhile at least, and the movement will need more people to stand up for justice.

Our freedom requires people who are willing to fight, so if you want to go, whether you can be arrested or not, check the NC NAACP web site, sign up and go to Raleigh next Monday or the Monday after …

If we don’t take action now, things will only get worse.

 

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