The prosecution has it all wrong in the Moral Mondays cases.
The state thinks we all went to Raleigh just to be arrested. I’ll be honest, we all knew it was a possibility — even a probability. But by the third week, I expected the police would hand out citations, not arrest us.
I went to court yesterday, and although my case wasn’t heard, the cases of Vicki and Doug Ryder were. The trial lasted six hours and the defense lawyer Scott Holmes was amazing.
He talked about our Constitutional right to address our legislators, who have continually refused to talk to us about the issues or listen to our concerns as they passed laws that actually jeopardize our way of life here: slashes to education and unemployment, refusal to expand Medicaid — putting health care out of reach of a half million people — voter suppression, degradation of the environment, denial of climate change, approval of fracking … and on and on. And the thing of it is, all these issues are intertwined.
I am passionate about making health care accessible for every human being, and they’re taking it away. And because of the rejection of Medicaid, hospitals and clinics that serve the poor will lose a great deal of their indigent care funding. Some will close. This is about human lives, and I am desperate to be heard.
That’s why I went to Raleigh, and that’s why Vicki and Doug went to Raleigh. Doug told the prosecutor that he went to give voice to people who have none — to people in minimum-wage jobs who can’t take a day off work to go to Raleigh and petition their lawmakers.
I have said time and again I am not afraid to be arrested, although I won’t go anywhere with the intention of being arrested. We went to have our voices heard and they decided to arrest us.
Then, Scott and the other defending attorney, Dave Neal, proved that the General Assembly Police chief knew we intended to protest but allowed us into the building anyway.
He showed that the people standing in front of the doors to the Senate chamber weren’t preventing senators and staff from getting into the chamber — which was called into session while the protesters stood outside.
Scott and Dave asked whether Chief Weaver was ever afraid we might resort to violent behavior and he said no. Scott asked whether there were other people in the rotunda who were cheering and clapping but were not arrested and he admitted there were, but they “weren’t within the perimeter we had set up.”
In the early afternoon, Judge Joy Hamilton dropped two of the charges, and about 4 o’clock, she dismissed the final charge.
We couldn’t whoop it up like we wanted, but there were a lot of smiles and tears of relief in Courtroom 402 yesterday afternoon.
We have said all along we are doing nothing more than exercising our Constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and our right to talk to our legislators about our grievances.
House Speaker Thom Tillis literally ran away from us when we went to see him.
How else can we be heard?
Those of us who are determined to have a trial have had to go to Raleigh at least three times so far. For me and several others from this region, that means a four-hour drive each way and an overnight, plus meals.
This is not justice. People who have jobs and can’t make trip after trip to Raleigh are forced to take the plea deal of 25 hours of community service and payment of $180 in court costs. Many of them can’t afford that, but they can’t lose their jobs to fight for vindication either.
Yesterday, the judge agreed with the defense attorney. That gives the rest of us hope that we will be vindicated as well, but we still have to go back unless the DA dismisses all the charges against all of us.