RALEIGH, North Carolina — Over 3,000 people turned out this week for the growing Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, where faith leaders are organizing weekly protests against the state’s sharply-conservative policies that would hurt the poor, women, minorities, and the environment.
Among the crowd were 120 people who were willing to face arrest in order to protest policies like school vouchers, voter ID, the expiration of unemployment benefits, and the Republicans’ rejection of federal money to expand Medicaid, which leaves half a million North Carolinians without health insurance.
ThinkProgress spoke with some of the protestors before they took to the state legislative building in order to ask what drove them to come today and how did they feel knowing that they would be arrested soon. Here’s what they had to say:
ROSANELL EATON: (Relayed by her daughter Armenta while Rosanell rested her voice) “What brought her out was the possibility of requiring voter ID. She was required when she was 21 years old to repeat the preamble to the Constitution in order to register. She did it! She didn’t even know she had to do it, she was just smart. They would yank you around back in those days. She was valedictorian of her class, she knew all that stuff. It’s what she had to go through. She thought things were smooth sailing. She’s seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Now she’s seeing the ugly again. She fought for civil rights, she was a civil rights worker, and now she sees that it’s going backward.”
CHRIS CARTER: “A lot of the rules protecting water quality in this area have been stripped away and are under attack. We see a very calculated attack on environmental quality in the state. Some really hard-fought battles are now being undermined and taken away. You sit at home, you yell at your radio. This feels a lot better, to take action, than just to get angry and get mad. What else can you do? We need to come together and let the effects of these policies be known. It’s a little nerve-racking. But I’ve had some friends who go in and talked with them about it.”
BISHOP GERALD SYLVER: “First of all, I’m a pastor. I have congregation members who are affected by this in a great way. If they’re affected, I’m affected. So I have to stand for them. I have to give voice to the pain of those who have no voice. Second, I’m not just a pastor of my church, I’m a pastor in this city and state. I have an opportunity to show great disdain for the policies that are being made in the legislature. And I feel great. It’s like the exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Whatever gets the attention of the legislature.”
DARLENE BURNS: “My grandchildren. I want a better state for them to grow up in. I’ve got three that are still in the public schools. They’re decimating education and it’s not fair to the kids. It’s attacks on the unemployed, it’s turning down the Medicaid. It’s too many things to list. I’m nervous. I’ve never done this before. But it’s too important not to.”
CHARLES WARREN: “I’m feeling very excited about it. It’s about the cause. So much to hurt the middle class, the unemployed, taking Medicaid away from 500,000 people, reducing unemployment. This is terrible for our state. Terrible for the people who’re going to be laid off. I’m really in favor of kicking all these legislators out.”
ROBERTA PENN: “I basically feel like it’s a privilege to stand for the people in North Carolina, people like who the billionaire Budget Director Art Pope is destroying their jobs, their rights, their medical.”
ANNE DICKERSON: “I’m tremendously excited and angry about what’s being done. I’m glad that where I am in my life I have the freedom to come up here and do this and that nothing stops me, that I’m one of those people that can be arrested and take time off and it’s good to be able to do that.”
SHARON MUJICA: “I feel good. I’ve been coming to all the Moral Mondays for the last month and I feel like I needed to do this. I feel good about this, really good about it. I think we have to stand up for what we believe in. My cousin and I wanted to come and do it together.”