Over 150 people were arrested on Monday during ongoing weekly protests by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) against the policies of North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly. Grievances include cuts to public education, restrictions on women's access to reproductive health care, suppression of voter rights, restrictions on access to health insurance, lifting of the fracking moratorium, and restrictions on labor rights. An estimated 1,000 people turned out at the latest rally, the largest yet since protests began in mid-April.
While there is much attention being paid to the ongoing anti-government protests in Turkey, and rightly so given their significance and the nature of the police and government response, it is also worth remembering that many people in America are also engaging in protests against their government.
More than 200 protesters occupy the General Assembly on May 20. Image credit: Blue NC
According to those involved, the demonstrations, referred to as "Moral Mondays," seek to highlight the increasingly conservative nature of the state legislature since Republicans took control of both chambers in 2010 for the first time in over 100 years. The demonstrations have been going on every Monday for over a month, and the NAACP has been joined by other groups including environmentalists, pro-abortion activists and public educators. What reportedly began as tens of people and 17 arrests, has now grown to over 1,000 people and there have been a total of almost 300 arrests during the five weeks the protests have been taking place. Chris Kardish of the Associated Press reports that since 2010, Republicans have "built veto-proof majorities and taken control of the governor's mansion while lawmakers have pushed a conservative agenda on social programs, criminal justice, taxes, education, voting rights and other areas."
Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC host and columnist for the Nation, tweeted a picture of the protesters, saying:
Darren Hunicutt, a 33-year-old accountant, said he and his wife decided to join the protest with their 8-year-old twin boys because the Republicans "have taken a progressive state that prioritizes education for young people, prioritizes economic justice, prioritizes access to health care and basically in the last six to 12 months done a complete 180." In particular, he criticized the decision to block a proposed expansion of Medicaid, reduce the number of teacher assistants, expand sales taxes, and limit eligibility for pre-kindergarten education.
Despite taking place in the state capital Raliegh, the protests have attracted people from around the state. Democratic Representative Garland Pierce put the growing number of people taking part down to people increasingly "beginning to read and see that this present administration is toxic." One activist, writing for Daily Kos, argues that the protests will not stop until things change:
"beginning of a groundswell moment in North Carolina history: the tipping point at which Tar Heelinians let our legislators know, in no uncertain terms, that they either serve the state with the consent or the governed or we will withdraw our consent. But we will not back down. We will not go back."
While I am not trying to say that the protests happening in North Carolina are the same as those occurring in Turkey in terms of numbers, police violence, and the government response, there is a line that can be drawn between them in terms of people protesting against the direction their government is taking and the feeling that their concerns are being ignored. So as you follow the events in Turkey as they unfold, remember that there are also significant and ongoing struggles taking place here in America.