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.
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.'”