Upwards of 1,600 demonstrators amassed outside the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh on Monday, railing against the "extreme agenda" of the GOP-controlled legislature, WNCN reported. As attendees of the "Mega Moral Monday" protest spilled from the square outside the building and into the state Senate chambers, WRAL reported that 151 were arrested and released by 5 a.m. on Tuesday.
Monday's demonstration is the latest in a series of "Moral Monday" events organized by the North Carolina NAACP and other civil rights groups, activists and unions. They've been taking place since April, though the gathering this week was by far the largest, and the arrests nearly doubled the total of the previous four protests.
Organizers have decried the increasingly conservative nature of the state legislature, which has been pushing controversial issues such as voter ID, hydraulic fracking and cuts to education spending.
(Read Greenpeace Director Philip Radford's blog on the environmentalist contingent of the "Moral Monday" protests.)
"The people are awake now, and we have decided to stand up," state NAACP chapter president Rev. William Barber told the crowd Monday. "We are a movement. This is not a moment."
Republicans inside the building appeared largely unmoved, despite the raucous protests.
"There is no buzz. There's none," state Sen. Tom Goolsby (R) told WRAL over the echoes of chants from demonstrators when asked if Republicans were paying attention.
Instead, Goolsby maintained that they were "keeping our promises to the voters."
State Rep. John Blust (R) used a more regional analogy to explain his attempt to brush the demonstrations aside.
“I think of it like Carolina playing at Duke,” he told the Raleigh News and Observer, invoking the historic Tobacco Road college basketball rivalry. “I’m not going to let the Cameron Crazies throw me off my game.”