The "Moral Monday" protests that have taken place at the North Carolina General Assembly building every week for the past two months are continuing to grow, according to reports from this week's event.
WRAL reports that organizers with the North Carolina NAACP announced a turnout far larger than the state capitol police chief, who estimated their numbers at around 1,500. Other police officials gave a figure between 2,500 and 3,000, while activists and the left-leaning Fight Back News! placed that number at around 5,000. Authorities said the demonstration was the largest yet.
By the end of the protest, 120 protesters had been arrested by police, bringing the total number of people facing charges for civil disobedience over the eight-week stretch to around 600.
This week's event marked the final Monday before a Republican plan to cut unemployment benefits for 71,000 jobless North Carolinians is set to go into effect on July 1, which also falls on a Monday.
The protests have been mounted as a response to North Carolina Republicans, who after the 2012 elections now control both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governorship. The demonstrations have also taken aim at other GOP agenda items such as voter ID legislation, hydraulic fracking, cuts to education spending and the rejection of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
State Republicans have proven largely unmoved by the showings. State Sen. Thom Goolsby (R) branded them "Moron Mondays" earlier this month, while Gov. Pat McCrory (R) attempted to downplay the turnout as being inflated by forces from outside North Carolina. A subsequent study found that nearly all of those in attendance, as well as those arrested, lived in the state.
As the latest round of protesters were being arrested on Monday, the first round was in court facing charges stemming from the inaugural demonstration in April. Their cases were delayed, but they reportedly plan to plead not guilty.