For the seventh week in a row, protesters crowded into the North Carolina General Assembly building on Monday in a boisterous demonstration against state GOP policies that ultimately led to 84 arrests.
The attendance at the gatherings has picked up over the past month; nearly 500 people have been arrested since the first event was held in April. The diverse rallies -- first sparked by the state NAACP chapter and its leader, Rev. William Barber -- have come together as a response to largely uncontested Republican power in the state, which now monopolizes both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship. Protesters have denounced GOP agenda items such as voter ID legislation, hydraulic fracking, cuts to education spending and the rejection of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
“I want the legislators who are intending to roll back our rights to hear our voice and know we’re not in favor of it,” Elizabeth Benefield, a 53-year-old professional fundraiser in attendance, told the Raleigh News and Observer. “There’s too much at stake, and justice will always prevail. They can pretend not to listen, but we cannot be silenced.”
While some state Democrats have joined the rallies, the events have largely been ignored by their Republican counterparts. In a widely circulated column this month, state Sen. Thom Goolsby (R) called the movement "Moron Mondays," prodding its organizers as a bunch of "aged former hippies" and members of the "Loony Left." Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has meanwhile insisted that the protests are "unacceptable" and being fueled by outside interests.
On Monday, researchers sought to test McCrory's theory about people from outside North Carolina stacking the protests. According to WRAL, a groups of researchers surveyed a sample of protesters and found that 311 of 317 of those surveyed were from North Carolina. A review of warrants from last week similarly showed that 98 percent of those arrested were from North Carolina.
Republican leaders reportedly declined to comment on Monday's protests. "Moral Monday" organizers told the News and Observer that they were expecting a larger crowd next week, which will fall on the last Monday before unemployment benefits are set to be slashed under a bill signed by McCrory earlier this year.