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14 Moral Monday protesters arrested after sit-in in Tillis' office

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A Moral Monday protester sits on the floor of House Speaker Thom Tillis' office. (Beau Minnick, WNCN) A Moral Monday protester sits on the floor of House Speaker Thom Tillis' office. (Beau Minnick, WNCN)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A total of 14 Moral Monday protesters were arrested early Wednesday morning after they entered and stayed in House Speaker Thom Tillis' office Tuesday night, singing and chanting in direct opposition to new rules enacted by the Republican-led legislature.

The demonstrators staged the sit-in for more than five hours in Tillis' office to lobby for the expansion of Medicaid, the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the extension of unemployment benefits, more money for teachers and public schools, and stronger environmental regulation.

Around 8:30 p.m., protestors began to lay out sleeping bags outside and inside of Tillis' office. A short time later, law enforcement showed up and asked the protestors to leave Tillis' office. The protestors refused.

Fourteen of the 15 protesters were arrested just before 2 a.m. Wednesday and booked on second-degree trespassing. Police had warned the protesters nine times to leave, but only one left before arrests were made.

Earlier Tuesday evening, they sung "We shall not be moved," protesters broke newly enacted rules that prohibit "singing, clapping, shouting, playing instruments or using sound amplification equipment."

Singing is considered a behavior that could "disturb, or create an imminent disturbance," at the General Assembly.

Tillis wasn't inside his speaker's office when the sit-in started. He waited in another room on the opposite side of the House chamber before entering the House floor and going onto the speaker's dais.

After the House meeting adjourned, Tillis never returned.

The group said they would remain seated and wait for Tillis to return, saying they were prepared to stay all night.

Protesters, led by North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, planned to go door-to-door to lawmakers' offices Tuesday. No Monday evening protest was scheduled this week because of Memorial Day.

"My concern is to try to ensure that they know that we know that the process is broken right now," said TJ Amos, who was arrested last year during a Moral Monday demonstration. "So, instead of just being able to pass extreme laws that effect anybody and everybody, to be able to just say that everybody has a right to have a voice basically."

Prior to Tuesday's sit-in, about 170 people gathered to hear from university scholars on the fallout of the new laws, giving participants pointers on what to say when lobbying.

Dr. Nancy MacLean of Duke University said that as thousands of North Carolina residents are hurting from not expanding Medicaid, the state is still paying federal taxes that pay for the health care program in other states.

Republican, however, say the state is improving on all fronts since the GOP took control.

"What happened since last year? We've had a $2 billion tax cut, our unemployment has dropped for 10 straight months and we're below the national average," said John Dudley, with Americans for Prosperity.

Last week about 1,500 people attended the Moral Monday kickoff with a silent march through the Legislative Building.

The Thom Tillis Committee issued the following statement regarding Moral Mondays:

“As detailed in an AP story on Monday, this is nothing more than a far-left campaign tactic designed to generate media attention and help reelect Kay Hagan. Their actions are a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the Obama/Reid/Hagan reckless agenda of government spending & debt without regard for the financial future of America. We call on them to bring their chief advocate, Kay Hagan, to Raleigh and Thom Tillis will gladly debate her on their concerns and the impact those concerns have on the livelihood of all North Carolinians.”

Here are the 14 people who were arrested:

  • Rev. Julie Peeples
  • Minister Rubye Harris
  • Meyshon Payton
  • Jesseia Jackson
  • Crystal Prize
  • Randolph Perry
  • Norma Clark
  • Norman Clark
  • Jason McCullen
  • Tyrek Pierce
  • Rev. Dick Weston Jones
  • Stella Adams
  • Fay Daniel
  • Rev. C. Anthony Jones
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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