The NC Council of Churches is proud to publish a brand new e-book collection of testimonies from Moral Mondays. With 32 short vignettes from North Carolinians across the state, Voices of Moral Mondays tells the story of everyday folks being motivated to speak out on account of their faith. Many, though not all, of the accounts describe what it was like to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested by the authorities. Click here to download the free e-book.
By Jonathan Kotch, President, Health Care for All North Carolina
It has been very gratifying to meet fellow health-care reform advocates, including Physicians for a National Health Program and Health Care for All NC members, on Halifax Mall on the several Mondays I managed to make it. Some of you helped hold our banner. Others, like our treasurer, Robin Lane, addressed the 1,000 or so participants from the podium. My own experience, when I was arrested on June 3, was very personal.
Rev. Barber and other organizers emphasized time and time again that there is no added moral value to getting arrested. It is a complex decision conditioned by one’s experience and opportunity. I understand that on June 3 more people were arrested, a total of 151, than on any day before or since. Those of us who were arrested on one of these earlier days went through the whole booking process, including mugshots and fingerprints, whereas the powers-that-be got tired of us as June led into July. The more recent cohorts were neither photographed nor fingerprinted, depriving the Civitas Institute the opportunity to play games with their mugshots.
The expression of support leading up to the arrest was exhilarating. Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of Southern Exposure, grabbed my arm as we marched into the General Assembly together. Riding in those white school buses that say “Division of Prisons” on the side (you have seen them on the interstate) was like going to summer camp, with the exception of having our hands handcuffed behind our backs. To be truthful, however, everything after that, until I was released at 3:30 a.m., was boring.
The organizing effort mounted by the NAACP was terrific. They provided bail for those who needed it, and offered free legal representation for those who chose to take them up on it. Once out of the Wake County Detention Center, there was a folding table in the parking lot with drinks and snacks (peanut butter or pimento cheese sandwiches), and volunteers waiting to take the former detainees back to their cars.
As of this writing, the Moral Monday demonstrations are winding down. The legislature is adjourned, having done as much damage as possible. We (HCfA-NC) continue to support the NC Justice Center’s efforts to bring Medicaid expansion to our state. Maybe with the legislature out of the way, cooler heads will prevail. It will be interesting to compare the North Carolina experience in the first year of the Affordable Care Act with the experience of other states who signed on for Medicaid expansion.
There is no particular glory in getting arrested. No one knows if any of the demonstrations on Halifax Mall have made a difference, although polls indicating that North Carolinians are more likely to approve of Moral Monday protesters than they do of their state legislature are encouraging. Furthermore, no one knows if getting arrested adds at all to the impact, if any, of Moral Mondays. The real deal will be determined by the 2014 elections. Until then, deciding one’s level of involvement is about doing what feels right. It’s personal.