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N.C. Moral Monday Draws Biggest Crowd Yet as UI Cutoff Looms

Photo by Jeremy Sprinkle, N.C. AFL-CIO

North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews says he chose the act of civil disobedience that led to his arrest and the arrests of 120 others yesterday at the state Capitol in Raleigh, N.C., because:

I stand in opposition to the immoral acts taken against the people of North Carolina by those who claim to govern in their name.

More than 3,000 people from civil rights, labor, faith, community and other groups yesterday made up the largest crowd yet for the “Moral Monday” actions that began in April. The demonstrations protest the legislature’s and governor’s actions that have cut unemployment benefits, raised taxes on low-income families, cut taxes for a handful of multimillionaires, slashed health care funding for those who need it most and attacked public schools and voting rights.

The July 1 cutoff of unemployment insurance benefits for more than 70,000 jobless North Carolinians was the focus of Monday’s action. By year’s end, more than 170,000 unemployed workers could lose their lifeline. Earlier this year the Republican/tea party legislature approved and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed legislation cutting the jobless benefits.  

With multiple college degrees, Lee Creighton has been out of work or underemployed for nearly four years. The Ph.D. and mathematician has worked as a statistician, data analyst, technical writer and trainer. He has depleted his savings and loses his unemployment benefits next week.

Speaking to the crowd, Creighton responded angrily to lawmakers who have described the jobless as lazy and living on government handouts as if on an extended vacation.

The unemployed people are not deadbeats. We’re not losing our jobs because we don’t want to work....If this is such a vacation, why is it that I cry to sleep every night?

Andrews and the others were arrested and charged with trespassing, failure to disperse or disorderly conduct as they tried to enter the Capitol building. So far more than 600 people have been arrested at the Moral Monday actions.

However Andrews had high praise for the authorities on the scene and at the Wake County jail where protesters were processed after the arrests.

I was impressed by the kind spirit, polite, gentleness and professionalism of the Capitol Police, Wake County EMS and Raleigh police officers. They understood up front that some participants might have health issues that will require special care as they went about their work. I am sure they were saying, 'How would I like for people in my position to treat my mother, father or grandparents.'

The Moral Monday actions—which will continue—and its coalition were organized by the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. Read more about him here and more about Moral Mondays here.

See more from Andrews and visit the Progressive Pulse for an audio postcard from Moral Monday

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