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Moral Monday: How I Got Arrested

Best-Activist-Luis-Rodriguez.jpgI didn’t go to my state’s Capitol to get arrested.  I wasn’t naïve about the situation; I knew getting arrested was a distinct possibility.  Though far more remote, there was another possibility.  Perhaps my representatives, my governor, and those legislators making a mockery of our voting rights, educational system, and state environmental policy would speak with us, explain themselves, and do what we pay them to do…listen.  Slim though the chance was, I went to tell my representatives my thoughts on these issues and implore them, as a citizen, as a voter, and as a person who must live with their decisions to employ some modicum of reason and perspective in their decision-making. 

Eighty-four of us entered the building for this purpose, with several hundred more in support.  Instead of being greeted by our representatives, who receive salaries our taxes pay and work in offices our tax dollars make available, we were greeted by the Capitol Police and told to disburse…that this was an “unlawful gathering.”  These people are public “servants,” paid by my taxes, and yet I was being told to leave as if I had no business being in my own house. 

I refused as any business owner, told by his employee to leave, would.  I don’t work for Pat McCrory, Thom Tillis or Phil Berger…they work for me.  They work for all eighty-four of us who stood there yesterday, and the hundreds who stood outside.  They work for the 5,500 government workers they will soon be laying off, the 70,000 citizens whose unemployment benefits they are cutting, and the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who, thanks to them, will not have access to affordable healthcare.   Any employee who treated their employer with this level of both disrespect and disregard would be fired on the spot.   This is a “Right to Work” state, after all. 

But there was no justice done.  Not for those of us seeking it directly, nor for the hundreds of thousands of those seeking it indirectly, from their sickbeds or their classrooms or after yet another long day of fruitless job hunting.  Instead, for the first time in my thirty-five years, I was put in handcuffs.  I’ve worked steadily since I was 13, hold a dual degree from Winthrop University and, before eighteen months ago, had never participated in any type of protest.  I’m neither a “hippie” nor an “outside agitator.”  For loving my state and seeking to protect both my current and future neighbors, I was charged with Second Degree Trespassing and Failure to Disperse On Command.

How can I be trespassing in a building I helped pay for?  Who has the right to tell me to leave my own house?  Something is very backward when the people charged with serving us confuse the power from us with power over us. 

Moral Mondays will continue.  The witnessing and the outcry will continue.  And though I am barred from entering the buildings, the close to 500 of us who have walked out of there wearing cuffs will continue.  To those who are attempting to take our state back to the 1940’s we say, “Forward Together…Not One Step Back.”