June 25, 2013
Unions push crowd turnout to largest, yet!
The NC State AFL-CIO issued a special call for unions to push for a big turnout at the last Moral Monday in June, which ended up being the largest such protest, yet! Monday’s protest garnered coverage from national media outlets, including Huffington Post and MSNBC.
Police estimated the crowd for Moral Monday 8 on June 24th at as many as 3,000 people – though there were likely even more.
This picture taken from the roof of the legislative building shortly before the rally ended and people filed inside gives one a sense for how massive the crowd appeared even at a distance.
Legislative police arrested 120 people, 98% of them from North Carolina. The overwhelming majority of rally goers are from NC according to UNC-CH crowd surveys. These are not outsiders. These are North Carolinians.
Unemployment cliff in focus
Prematurely expiring federal unemployment benefits (and overall cuts to the program, cuts which triggered the loss of fed UI) were the primary focus. This loss – the “unemployment cliff” – begins July 1, immediately affecting 71,000 people and up to 170,000 at a cost of $780 million lost by years’ end.
“Many in this week’s crowd questioned the wisdom of state lawmakers to reject extended federal unemployment benefits,” writes Clayton Henkel for the NC Policy Watch blog, the Progressive Pulse.
Multiple unemployed workers who will be affected by the loss of benefits spoke at the rally on June 24, including Philip Diehl, an autoworker laid off from Freightliner. From Raleigh CBS affiliate, WRAL:
Protester Philip Diehl said his unemployment benefits will soon be wiped away as he continues his recovery from cancer.
“Luckily for me, I’m in remission,” he said. “Making these changes with unemployment is not right … I’m a real person in North Carolina, and I matter.”
The coming suffering of Philip and 71,000 other North Carolinians come July 1 is totally avoidable. That he and others along with our state economy will fall off the cliff was a choice made by Republican lawmakers, who repeatedly defeated or refused to take up measures that would avert the cliff.
AFL-CIO joins in civil disobedience
Saying that he’s “not intimidated by bullies” in the state legislature, AFL-CIO state president James Andrews joined the ranks of those at who have been arrested at earlier Moral Mondays for choosing nonviolent civil disobedience to petition our immoral legislature.
“I will not be obedient in the face of injustice,” said Andrews in a statement explaining his decision to risk arrest.
Describing his experience being arrested for the first time in his life, James described the immediate bond and sense of family he shared with the others who volunteered for civil disobedience. “The diversity among this group included, ministers, attorneys, union workers, young people, seniors, and advocates for women,” said James.
“One lady told me her daughter was arrested a few weeks ago and it was her time to do this as her grandchild looked on.
“Another couple said, ‘I need to make sure my grand kids see a picture of us taking this kind of action against what is going on in Raleigh.'”
“In others words this was a very loving, focus and dedicated group and I enjoyed and was proud to share this experience with each of them.”
James also had nothing but praise for the officers and EMS who carried out their duties when ordered into action by Thom Tillis’ legislative Chief of Police:
“I was impressed by the kind spirit, polite, gentleness and professionalism of the Capital 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?”
“One Example, a Raleigh Police got an EMS person the check the sugar level of a person and the EMS worker got that person something to eat.
“We had the very same experience with the detention officers of Wake County.”
“Solidarity Forever” will give you goosebumps
After an opening prayer by Rev. William Barber, James led protesters on the second and third floor in singing the classic union song, “Solidarity Forever”, the words of which almost certainly have never been sung in the North Carolina General Assembly and certainly not be hundreds of people.
By the beginning of the second chorus, it was clear this was a magical moment in the now two-month-long history of Moral Monday.
Moral Monday returns July 1
Be there for the 9th Moral Monday on July 1 at 5 PM on Halifax Mall.