The head of the North Carolina NAACP hopes to be allowed to enter the Statehouse again after Monday. The Rev. William Barber has been banned since May 30, when he was arrested during a protest over health care. He is charged with second-degree trespassing. A Wake County magistrate imposed the ban on Barber and other arrested protesters as a condition of their release on bond. Barber says the ban is wrong for several reasons.
“That is called profiling,” Barber says. “That is not constitutional. We’ve not been found guilty, we’ve been arrested. And even when we were found guilty, that does not mean that one person can decide to ban you from a public space. Those are matters of the court, matters of the constitution. If that’s the case, we would have banned every civil rights activist, every peace activist who stood up for what’s right. You cannot ban dissent.”
Barber has a court hearing today. His attorney intends to ask for the ban to be lifted. Martin Brock would rather the ban stay in effect. He’s the chief of police at the General Assembly. Brock says Barber and other protestors have a history of disruptive behavior that crosses the legal line, including what happened May 30.
“They chanted, and they went and they entered a member’s office, and refused to leave after being asked to do so, and then they went and sat in front of members’ offices and blocking the doors, and sang and chanted and refused to move or leave when asked to do so,” Brock says.
The North Carolina Statehouse is public property.
“Well you can be in public property and still reach the elements of trespassing,” Brock says. “In this particular case, they were blocking the members’ doors or refusing to leave the members’ offices. Even though they were public areas, if you come into an office and you were asked to leave and refused to do so, you can be charged with second-degree trespassing.”
Brock didn’t request the ban, but says he will ask for such bans in the future if protestors have a history of disruptive behavior. Barber says he will continue to protest.
“I will continue to always stand up for what is right, stand up for justice along with all of the other people in our movement,” Barber says. “Remember, we had over 1,000 people arrested in the Moral Monday movement, and the judge threw more than 900 of those cases out. Arrests don’t scare us, because we are arresting the conscious of the nation, and we are operating according to the constitution.”
While Barber has not entered the Statehouse since May 30, he has held press conferences just outside the building.