North Carolina's anti-worker Legislature is trying to severely limit protest outside the Statehouse, after hundreds were arrested last year for demonstrating against laws that raised taxes on the poor, lowered them on the rich, slashed education and suppressed voting.
The protests became known as the Moral Monday movement, and they undoubtedly embarrassed North Carolina lawmakers.
The new rules, which were changes to existing rules, were passed Thursday by the Legislative Services Commission. The committee had not met since 1999, and the rules had not been altered since 1987...
Rep. Larry Hall, A Democrat and the House minority leader, said, "This is not regarding safety. This is limiting people's ability to have their voices heard."
The new rules do not allow groups to "disturb, or create an imminent disturbance," at the General Assembly.
They state that visitors may be asked to leave the Legislative Building if they are found to be disturbing "the General Assembly, one of its houses, or its committees, members, or staff in the performance of their duties."
The Rev. William Barber, who led the Moral Monday protests, said the protests will start next week even if the new rules are passed:
Barber said the protests will replicate last year's and arrests will be up to the Legislature's police.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Barber said,"Speaker Thom Tillis and the extremists he leads are attempting to undermine, stifle and stop the voice of the people."
Barber said that courts would uphold the North Carolina Constitution, which states, "The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances."
Barber said the new rules violate the First Amendment rights to free speech and are "highly offensive and prejudicial to African Americans, minorities, women, the poor, LGBT people and faith communities who have been historically criticized for being abnormal to the so-called mainstream of our country whenever they have chosen to protest."