Police arrested 151 people who were taking part in a peaceful demonstration Monday outside the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh. The demonstration drew more than 1,000 people for a fifth consecutive week as part of the “Moral Monday” movement, a protest against proposed cuts to education and social programs.
The protests, organized by the NAACP and faith-based groups, began a little more than a month ago. They continue to grow as more residents call for an end to a Republican-led proposal for spending cuts that protest leaders claim will harm middle- and low-income residents.
“Don’t ask us when we’ll stop. Ask Tillis and Berger and the man in the governor’s mansion. When will they stop?” said Rev. William Barber, NAACP state president, according to a North Carolina Public Radio recording of the demonstration. “When will they stop hurting children? When will they stop hurting the sick? When will they stop hurting our public schools? When will they stop hurting our economics? Because if they stop, we’ll stop. But we can’t stop as long as people are being hurt.”
Barber was joined by faith leaders, community organizers and professors who say they are fed up with the proposals of their elected representatives
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that some protesters attempted to walk into the Legislative Building, prompting the largest number of arrests in the series of Moral Monday protests.
North Carolina Public radio reports that the group is protesting the Republican-led legislature, demanding that it not pass bills that they say would restrict voting rights, shorten unemployment benefits and cut funding for education.
In February, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a 35 percent cut to unemployment benefits, dropping the weekly sum from $535 to $350. Some elected officials believe that this proposal will hurt middle-class families struggling to make ends meet.
“Families struggling to secure their place in the middle class will suffer a grievous blow, and the state’s economy will lose $780 million in federal funds that are vital to reducing North Carolina’s high unemployment rate,” said Seth D. Harris, the acting U.S. labor secretary, in a press release.
The state legislature is also considering a proposal to give taxpayer dollars to private schools through vouchers, as well as a voter ID law that opponents say is designed to curb Democratic votes.
There are no reports of Republican legislators meeting with protest leaders, but some have commented that they intend to maintain their support for the policies that have riled thousands.
“I think of it like Carolina playing at Duke,” Republican Rep. John Blust told the Charlotte Observer. “I’m not going to let the Cameron Crazies throw off my game.”
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