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Republican Legislative Services Commission Clamps Down on First Amendment in North Carolina

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

– First Amendment to the United States Constitution

The North Carolina Legislature’s Legislative Service Commission, controlled by Republicans, has hastily passed a new rule that prohibits North Carolina citizens from opening their mouths to speak at the North Carolina State Capitol Building.

“… or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Republican rule also allows the arrest of any person who in the judgment of staff or police poses an “imminent threat” of speaking his or her mind at the Capitol Building. How one could definitively prove that someone is about to open his or her mouth is a mystery, but GOP legislative staffers indicate that the practice of people assembling and preparing to protest is just the sort of “imminent threat” they have in mind.

The “imminent threat” of assembly and political speech is the liberal Moral Monday protest wave that swept North Carolina last year and was scheduled to begin anew this week… today, as a matter of fact. Moral Monday protests took place today despite the threats issued by the North Carolina Legislature, and as you can see below, protesters are not inclined to let their political speech be silenced.

Moral Monday protesters gagged by NC anti-speech rules

Moral Monday Protesters En Masse 2014

Moral Monday Protesters Silenced by North Carolina Anti-Speech Regulations

A big tip of the pen to regular reader Bill B., who was so kind as to direct my attention these important protests and the effort to silence them. Bill’s report from the Moral Monday protest today:

“Three thousand people showed up for NC’s first Moral Monday protest of this legislative year. Black, white, brown, gay, straight, young, old, disabled, strong, unions, churches, musicians, laborers, professors, mothers with babes in arms, vets, physicians, and so much more. Unlike last year’s Moral Mondays, arrests weren’t on the organizers’ program today. In response to the state legislature’s new gag rule enabling state police to arrest anyone in the state legislature building who looks like an “imminent threat” of creating a disruption (regardless of whether or not a crime is committed), all 3,000 of us put duct tape over our mouths and silently walked single file through the building while the Senate was in session. Dozens of news cameras, a couple of video documentarians, and a Sam Cooke recording loop of ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ belted out on speakers on the front lawn, as police helicopters circled overhead. Very powerful stuff. The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the NC NAACP and an inspiring black preacher, said ‘this once, and once only, we will be silent…to shame you.’”

Learn more about the ongoing 2014 Moral Monday actions here and here.

6 comments to Republican Legislative Services Commission Clamps Down on First Amendment in North Carolina

  • Bill

    So no more snarky cracks about Southern rednecks and Christians, OK? Thanks to the NC NAACP, many churches, unions, LGBT organizations, and others, we here in North Carolina pull off these protests every week while the legislature is in session, reminding the (temporarily) Republican legislature and governor that we vote, and we’re sick of this sh*t. Moral Mondays were invented here in NC, but they’re starting to spread to other states. Last year over 900 protestors were arrested during peaceful protests at the state house — many of them fragile old grannies.

    So what are the rest of y’all doing next Monday in the other 49 states?

    • Jim Cook

      Bill,

      I’m very grateful for your action. Having grown up in a rural agricultural community, I wouldn’t use (and don’t think I have used) the word “redneck” as an epithet. Having lived in many places including the South I know that there are many kinds of people living in the South. One of the dominant tendencies in the South, reflected in the majority sentiments of most Southern legislatures, is of dominating conservatism and domineering Christianity. While noting the important movements that resist this domineering group, we’d have to be blind not to describe the troubling aspects in the South — just as we describe troubling aspects of Midwestern, Western and New England communities.

  • Tom

    Good job Bill. i hope it helps, but the way things are going it may not (or at least not significantly – these people are big on throwin’ you crumbs so you can feel some sense of victory, but they don’t change much in reality). Up here in PA the fight to stop fracking isn’t going anywhere now that all the candidates are only arguing about how much to tax them (while the water quality is being destroyed, sinkholes are happening all over the place and methane keeps leaking from their sites, among other problems). Appealing to state senators to put a moratorium on the practice would formerly have been called glacially slow, but now glaciers are receding faster than that. Good luck down there – don’t get maced or clubbed.

    • Bill

      The Capitol police are friendly, courteous, and consummate professionals. One even gave us a surreptitious thumbs-up and a smile as we filed past him. When arrests are made they are polite and decorous, as is the crowd. The police are not the enemy and, despite the Republicans’ best efforts, this isn’t the North Carolina of Jesse Helms. There are no truncheons and certainly no mace. One of the strengths of Moral Mondays is that the crowds are thick with stooped little old ladies with walkers, mothers with babes in arms, children, folks in wheelchairs, and pastors. It’s more like a really big church supper than anything else. I felt safer there than I do walking down the typical city street. This is the way you protest. Throwing bricks is so 20th century.

  • Tom

    Ah, but is it effective?

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