Thursday, May 15, 2014

Change the General Assembly Building Rules in Blatant Attempt to Stifle the People's Voices


May 15, 2014


Contact: Sarah Bufkin, NC NAACP - or 404.285.3413



 Speaker Thom Tillis and Extremist Lawmakers Change the General Assembly Building Rules in Blatant Attempt to Stifle the People's Voices and Stymie the People's Protest


Like a Tree that's Planted by the Water, the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement Shall Not Be Moved from Its Petition of Our Lawmakers



DURHAM, NC - At Speaker Thom Tillis' insistence, the Legislative Service Commission changed the General Assembly building rules at a closed-door meeting held today in order to shutter public protest and further limit public input in the legislative process.  


In response to Speaker Tillis and his allies' blatant attempts to stifle the people's voices in their own center of government, the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement released the following statements:


"Speaker Thom Tillis and the extremists he leads are attempting to undermine, stifle and stop the voice of the people," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement. "We believe constitutionally conscious courts will recognize our N.C. Constitution - created three years after one-third of the human beings in North Carolina had thrown off the shackles of slavery and were welcomed legally into God's human family in 1868 as part of 'We The People' - and will recognize Article I, Sec. 12. of that document, which says, 'The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated.'"


"These changes in the rules that defines acceptable speech as what they consider normal is, we believe, not only a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, but is highly offensive and prejudicial to African Americans, minorities, women, the poor, LGBT people and faith communities who have been historically criticized for being abnormal to the so-called mainstream of our country whenever they have chosen to protest," Dr. Barber said. "This attempt to characterize certain speech as abnormal and contrary to civility is a trick as old as when opponents of civil rights, women's rights, labor rights and LGBT rights accused their neighbors of being too loud or too uncivil when they challenged unjust and mean-spirited laws." 


"On Monday, we will dramatize just how dangerous to debate in our democracy this action by Tillis and their allies could be if it is not challenged by a movement," Dr. Barber continued. "We will take up our constitutional exercises next Monday evening at 5 pm at our People's House. Join us."


"This is an attempt to bully and to intimidate the people of North Carolina. Thom Tillis is trying to formalize in the rules the position that he articulated three years ago that this is his House, not the People's House," Dr. Barber continued. "These extremist lawmakers hide behind a cloak of civility while they pass laws that take away our voting rights, deny us life-giving health care access, give tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, place greater tax burdens on the poor and working class and slash funding from our schools and teachers."


Irv Joyner, the NC NAACP Legal Redress Chair and NCCU Law professor, responded to the legislative building changes: "The newly modified rules, which were adopted by the Legislative Service Commission, are a weak start toward the development of constitutional standards, but they fall short of what is acceptable in many respects. The new rules are vague, overbroad and are incapable of a consistent application. For example, the definitions for what constitute a "disturbance" and what will "imminently disturb" legislators and/or their staff members have no reasoned definition and, therefore, are fatally flawed."


"In addition, the effort to dispatch groups of 25 or more, but fewer than 200 participants to a designated location on the outside of the General Assembly has the effect of unconstitutionally limiting the forum in which people can exercise their right to instruct legislators and to assemble in the General Assembly building to redress their grievances," Professor Joyner continued. "These rules do no more than give to the General Assembly police officers and the legislative leadership unbridled discretion to indiscriminately violate the rights of North Carolinians with whom they do not agree."


Al McSurely, the NC NAACP Communications Chair and a long-term civil rights attorney, declared that these rules changes would not stop the People's Movement: "We believe our constitutionally conscious courts will weigh the new rules against the fundamental right of all Americans to peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances. We will fight vigorously to keep this right alive in our People's House.


"The NC NAACP and the Forward Together-Moral Movement will continue to exercise our God-given, constitutionally-protected rights to 'assemble together to consult for the common good,'" McSurely said. "We will continue 'to instruct our representatives.' We will continue 'to apply to the General Assembly for redress of our grievances.' We will do this openly, peaceably and directly, believing in our state motto that it is better to Be, than to 'Seem.'"


"The purpose of the legislature is to represent the people's interests," said Rev. Kojo Nantambu, the North Carolina NAACP Religious Outreach Chair who coordinates the clergy's involvement with the Forward Together Moral Movement. "But this legislature is now trying to rule over the people."


Rev. Nantambu will host a meeting with the clergy on Monday ahead of the Moral Monday action. 




Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.   


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