NC NAACP president, others bond out after arrest

Rev. William Barber, NC NAACP President, seen in his arrest photo (Image courtesy Wake County Sheriff's Office)

May 25, 2011 3:56:18 AM PDT
North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber, second Vice President Rev. Curtis Gatewood and Kojo Nantambu, the group's Charlotte-area leader, were among several arrested Tuesday following a protest of the state budget at the General Assembly.North Carolina General Assembly police arrested seven people after a group began chanting in the gallery of the state House minutes before the start of a civil rights rally.

They were arrested for disrupting a session of the state House of Representatives and were charged of trespassing and disorderly conduct. All seven bonded out of jail overnight.

There arrests came after the NAACP and other groups sponsored a rally at the legislative building to criticize the House budget proposal and air other concerns. Leaders accuse the new Republican leadership of harming the poor and minority groups.

Barber said House Speaker Thom Tillis has refused to meet with him. Tillis said on the House floor that Barber's group had canceled the meeting.

After Tillis ordered the men removed from the gallery, he told the assembled lawmakers he had agreed to meet with the demonstrators, but that the group had canceled. About an hour later, Tillis and Barber inadvertently came face-to-face as the civil rights leader was being led away in cuffs and the Mecklenburg County Republican was coming down an adjacent flight of stairs.

"When I get a respectful request, I'll be happy to meet with them," Tillis told reporters and demonstrators. "When they treat my House with respect."

As Tillis walked away from the scrum, Barber called after him, "Don't run from the people, Mr. Speaker!"

"We don't have to do this," Barber said, shortly before being led into an elevator by police. "We can be better than this as a state."

The rally went on without Barber and the others, with over 100 people gathering in an auditorium to hear speakers denounce the proposed House budget and call on lawmakers not to cut education funding, along with airing other concerns.

"I think it's sad what Rep Tillis said 'it's his house,'" Barber said after bonding out of jail. "It's not his house, it's the people's house and the people will be heard."

It is not Barber's first protest that ended with an arrest, he and 18 supporters were arrested in April 2010 during a Wake County school board meeting protest. The demonstrators were voicing opposition to the Wake County school board's decision to end the district's socio-economic diversity policy in favor of more neighborhood oriented school zones.

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