Moral Mondays, civil disobedience at its best!

Now is the time, Here is the place, We are the People, And we will be heard. A proud and defining moment.

Maybe you have recently thought, "I could do that, I could join the citizen pushback against the terrible legislation coming out of the General Assembly on Jones Street in Raleigh." If you have considered taking part but felt you required information on exactly what will transpire between you and the General Assembly Police once you join the 150 or so dedicated supporters of the Rev. William J. Barber's Moral Mondays in the General Assembly building on Jones Street in Raleigh, read on.

The first thing to do when you arrive in Raleigh to join the fight is to make your way to the Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin Street or whatever church is designated on the particular Monday you decide to go. The supporters who plan to participate in the civil disobedience action gather at the designated location at 3pm. The www.naacpnc.org site will supply the exact location as will a reply if you email info@naacpnc.org. Of course you can choose to join Moral Monday as a supporter only, not to be arrested, by participating along with the hundreds and hundreds of folks on the green in front of the General Assembly building at 5pm each Monday. Even if you decide not to take part in the civil disobedience action, still go to the 3pm rally. It is an integral part of the Moral Monday experience and the camaraderie will perhaps be one of the most uplifting events you'll ever have occasion to be a part of.

If dear reader you plan to take the leap and be arrested it is imperative that you be at the 3pm session for instructions from the NAACP attorneys, other professionals and the Rev. Barber, a bear of a man, a rousing speaker who is every bit as dedicated to his movement as was the Rev. M. L. King.

They will offer excellent advice on the protocol of nonviolent civil disobedience action. What they will do is assure you that you will be with others the whole time and have the full assistance of attorneys from the NAACP as you process through the law enforcement bureaucracy, or as they laughingly call it, "the belly of the beast." They will have you fill out a form with all the pertinent information needed to keep track of each and every arrested protester. They provide snacks, water and transportation from the church to the General Assembly site and they will supply a ride back to your car, which you can leave at the church, after you are released from the Hammond Street Detention Center. The Center is a new, modern and surprisingly pleasant facility about 15 minutes south of the General Assembly building.

What happens to you as one who takes part in the actual civil disobedience action in the GA building after the 5 o'clock rally is fairly simple and only a bit scary. The scenario that follows is one in which my wife Lynne Vogel and our good friend Nelda Holder were both involved. In this past Mega Moral Monday's civil disobedience action they along with 149 other activist men and women of all ages chose to be arrested.

After marching into the GA building in very organized two by two pairings the soon to be arrested gather around the fountain in the lobby and listen to speeches and sing and socialize for approximately an hour at which time Jeff Weaver, the General Assembly Chief of Police, announces that everyone must clear the site in 5 minutes or they will be arrested. At that point any protester, all of whom are wearing a green ribbon around one wrist to identify them, can of course change their mind and leave. None of the 151 chose to do that. A proud and defining moment!

Over the course of another hour the protesters are handcuffed and led to elevators which take them to an employee cafeteria which is the staging point for loading onto buses for the 15 minute nonstop ride to the Hammond Street Detention Center. Depending on the number of protestors this could entail a two to three hour time frame from loading on to buses at the General Assembly building to start of processing at the Detention site. As the individual buses full of protestors enter the Detention Center the police eventually remove the plastic handcuffs and start a long process of moving through fingerprinting, which involves no messy ink as in the past, but rather an electronic scan of fingers and palms and then to the ubiquitous mug shots in which you can in fact smile as long as no teeth are visible. Men and women are segregated and moved about in groups of 6 or 8 shackled together at the wrists for a short time until further processing is undertaken and completed.

At this point a remark or two is in order about the professionalism of the men and women police officers at all locations. As you are reminded at the 3pm NAACP indoctrination the police are not the enemy, the regressive legislators are. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest positive marks, my wife Lynne and our friend Nelda gave the police officers a 9 in their handling throughout the duration of their interaction, from start to finish. The only complaints involved the plastic wrist restraints which caused some mild discomfort and as our friend Nelda put it, "There were only a couple of sourpusses!" It seems that the earlier choice of being handcuffed in front rather than with your hands behind you is no longer offered, with all cuffed with hands behind. Perhaps a subtle form of psychological warfare on the part of the authorities after five weeks of protest.

Eventually the processing leads to dénouement, the meeting with a magistrate to determine terms of release. To my knowledge all 151 protestors were released on their own recognizance with a promise to return on the assigned court dates which were running some months into the future. All protestors had to promise not to return to the scene of the crime until final disposition of their cases. All were charged with FAIL TO DISPERSE ON COMMAND, POSTING OR DISPLAY OF SIGNS OR PLACARDS and SECOND DEGREE TRESPASS. To be exact, Offense in Violation of General Statute 14-288.5, 120-32.1 B and 14-159.13. Need a laugh, look them up. One serious thought, if you have had any prior arrests or outstanding tickets or warrants best check with an attorney before participating in the civil disobedience action.

The NAACP attorneys ask all arrestees, at the time of release, to sign a waiver allowing an NAACP attorney to appear in their stead on the first court date with the hopes of getting charges dropped. No one is quite sure of the outcome of this strategy since the first court dates are not until the 24th of June.

So what time do you eventually get to go home? I met our friend Nelda along with a group of quietly cheering supporters, Detention rules require quiet in the reception area, about 1am at which time we walked out of the Center to the attached parking garage where the NAACP had set up a food and beverage location for the just released jail birds. More cheering and much homemade food, cakes, cookies, fresh fruit and lots of congratulations and pats on the back. Three hours later at 4am my wife Lynne, one of the last 20 or so released, emerged from the belly of the beast and we proceeded to the food court for a large slice of lemon pound cake and to join up with our friend Nelda who had been dozing off and on for the last three hours in our SUV which I parked next to the well-stocked food tables. Home before 5am. A twelve hour journey from start to finish.

All in all a very satisfying undertaking with the knowledge that each and everyone had participated in a proud and very American tradition of answering the politics of regressive, bigoted and racist legislation(think George Wallace days)with a peaceful and well organized civil disobedience action not unlike the sit-ins of the 60's but without the violent reaction of the authorities. As Rev. Dr. Barber insisted in his April 29th speech, "Why We Are Here Today," Now is the time. Here is the place. We are the people. And we will be heard.

You can do this and emerge from the experience knowing that you have done your part in attempting to restore sensible and non-discriminatory government to all citizens of North Carolina. Rev. Barber and the NC NAACP suggest that you don't be afraid to step up and speak out about a backward legislature that is proposing bills that make voting harder, promotes discrimination, increases poverty, defunds our public schools and threatens our health. Engage others, speak up, and hold officials accountable!

Could there be a price to pay for your political activism? It is possible, and you should think about that possibility in advance of your decision to be arrested.

Read further about our friend Nelda Holder and the aftermath of her very personal decision. http://www.mountainx.com/article/50504/Xpress-contributing-editor-Nelda-...

Anyone wishing additional information about the civil disobedience process or other issues in this narrative should email Rick Vogel at flintstreetinns@gmail.com .

Comments

Fabulous report

This mirrors my own experience right down the line. Frontpaged with pleasure.

A few additional notes:

  • I was released around 1:30. The last group out was around 4:00 am.
  • The most moving part of the experience was having the chance (hours and hours) to talk with others, including those who had been arrested for other crimes.
  • I came away more dedicated than ever to ending the war on drugs in North Carolina.
  • Having your hands cuffed behind your back for five hours sucks.

Thank you

While I appreciate the kind remarks, the fact remains that James and BlueNC's constant coverage of the Moral Monday issues has been at the forefront of spotlighting this important undertaking by dedicated citizen activists, including James himself. Folks willing to sacrifice a day of their lives to fight for other's rights by not only talking the talk, but walking the walk!

Rick V