Commenter Summer sent me this great piece about Moral Monday protests in North Carolina from The Feminist Wire:
“Grotesque” is the word the New York Times used in an editorial today to describe North Carolina politics. I can think of some others.
In many ways, what’s happening in North Carolina is not entirely different from what is happening in places all over the country. In North Carolina as in other places, legislators are investing immense time and resources on abortion policy that intervenes in “problems” that arepolitical phantasms, while their constituents are navigating fundamental problems like hunger and access to basic health care. Education is being gutted in many states. And in what appears to be a desperate attempt to hold onto power, the Right is relying on some tried and true strategies that have the effect of un-democratizing democracy bylimiting public protest and constraining political participation (through voter ID laws and a tax on parents’ of college students who register in college towns). (In North Carolina too, moneyed interests are at work buttressing policymakers’ efforts by labeling some forms of citizenship as, perhaps, too citizen-y.)
But in North Carolina, weekly Moral Monday protests have been growing since April. Reverend Doctor William Barber, the state’s NAACP President, has spearheaded and sustained civil disobedience that has called out thousands of protesters and led to hundreds of arrests. The sheer mobilization of people achieved by Moral Mondays is incredible and inspiring. But what’s happening in North Carolina is worth paying attention to for three additional reasons.
1.News coverage has incorrectly reported that this past Mondays’ protest revolved around the North Carolina General Assembly’s recent abortion related efforts. The policy aims is to reduce access to one clinic in a state with a highway that stretches 604 miles from border to border. Surely, many protestors cared about reproductive justice, a site of struggle in which abortion is only one facet. But protestors were there to speak up about higher education, gerrymandering, the racism deeply structuring the criminal justice system, unemployment benefits, policy that directly attacks the lives of people with disabilities, the sustained exclusion of LGBTQ North Carolinians from any state recognition, pay increases for the NC Cabinet, and privatization of cityand county resources. (It’s always worth considering when and under what circumstances “big government” is demonized and when it is strategically deployed.)
I know the range of issues protestors were fighting against because I was there. The conversations that happened on the bus ride from Asheville, North Carolina to Raleigh were wide ranging as people articulated how voting rights, redistricting, and abortion policy are connected to environmental sustainability, family wellbeing, and racism. Participants whose political engagement tends towards a single issue (or maybe two) are articulating a seemingly newfound understanding of the importance of coalition building. Moral Mondays represent a significant moment in contemporary political struggle wherein single-issue politics are giving way to a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social issues.
2. On Moral Monday, protestors moved from the lawn outside the Legislative Building into the rotunda that bridges the House and Senate chambers. Police gave protestors a five-minute warning to vacate the premises. A select group stayed and was subsequently arrested. I was not a part of that group.
As I made way toward the exit at the two-minute warning, I passed an Ob-Gyn entering the rotunda, the area in which arrests would promptly begin. I knew she was an Ob-Gyn because she was wearing her white doctors’ coat embroidered with her name and professional affiliation. I do not know if she was arrested. But her visibility at Moral Mondays demonstrates something significant.
By wearing her physician’s jacket, the woman I saw was protesting not as a “Democrat” or a liberal, a progressive or a radical, but first and foremost as a doctor.
It really is a broad coalition, a diverse group of people down there getting arrested, with the NAACP in the lead. The lack of a divide on social issues is heartening because as you all know “social issues” have been used very effectively over the years to divide us on economic issues.
Summer would also like to organize a Balloon Juice meet-up in North Carolina:
So if you’d like to let people know that they can email summerjsmith97 at gmail, I will put something together here in Durham or Raleigh, maybe even one after a protest.