Charges dropped against 50 ‘Moral Monday’ protesters

By Michael Biesecker

Associated Press

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RALEIGH — The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP says Wake County prosecutors have dismissed criminal charges against more than 50 people Wednesday who were arrested last year while protesting at the state legislature.

NAACP President William Barber said prosecutors told defense lawyers representing people arrested at a Moral Monday protest on May 20 are being dropped. Barber said the cases were dismissed after two protesters tried Tuesday were acquitted by District Court Judge Joy Hamilton.

“It’s exposing the Constitutional irregularities in these prosecutions against people simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” Barber said.

More than 930 people were arrested last year at weekly nonviolent protests over conservative legislation enacted by Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly. Nearly all were charged with second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse and violating legislative building rules.

Barber said 31 defendants have been acquitted so far, with 26 found guilty on at least one misdemeanor charge and typically sentenced to pay a modest fine. All of those found guilty at bench trials in district court are exercising their right under state law to retry their cases before a jury in Superior Court.

“We believe the rest will be won on appeal,” Barber said.

A total of 57 people were arrested on May 20. Beyond the two acquitted, it was not immediately clear whether any of the remaining 55 cases had been disposed of prior to Wednesday’s mass dismissals.

District Attorney Colon Willoughby said he did not know the exact number of cases tossed, but said questions had been raised about whether there was sufficient evidence to win convictions on the cases from that particular date. Willoughby said his office plans to move forward with the remaining cases.

Comments

Balance

When people disrupt the normal operations of a legal assembly they are guilty of trespass and should be charged and convicted. If they simply visited the building and exercised their rights as citizens they should never be arrested. Reading about the comments by Capital police and others, it seems that there were some violations and some overzealous enforcement of vague and ambiguous rules. It seems that the judge is considering the actual infractions rather than the emotional ploys of both sides. I personally abhor the MM protests because they are not protesting for everyone's rights they are protesting in an effort to gain some personal benefit with a cost impact to the taxpayers. Barber is the biggest advocate for taking from some for his and his cohort's benefit. This is not the cause of liberty that was fought for in the 60's but is the progressivism and entitlement mentality intended to keep those like Barber in business and his followers in bondage.

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