Equal rights seekers took a page from the past this week when they staged a peaceful “pray-in” at the General Assembly. The group, led by N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber II, were beseeching a higher power for help in battling the un-Godly bills coming out of the State House these days.
At least through prayer, they knew the Lord would hear their cries. Republican lawmakers have turned a deaf ear to pleas to end their assault on poor and minority North Carolinians.
Peaceful praying is a crime these days, apparently. Barber and 16 others were arrested by General Assembly police and hauled off to jail. General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver said they broke a number of laws and misdemeanor charges of second-degree trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse will be filed.
We say the group posed no threat to law enforcement or General Assembly members. Their crime was holding up a symbolic mirror, forcing lawmakers to take a close look at themselves and the way they have led over the past several months. It is a grotesque image. Who would want to be forced to look at it?
Shortly before his arrest, Barber was quoted by the Associated Press pointing out the striking contradiction of GOP lawmakers who claim to be God-fearing yet do everything in their power to bring the least among God’s children to their knees.
“If you remove all the scriptures dealing with poverty and justice, the Bible would literally fall apart,” said Barber.
Timothy Tyson, a Duke University professor and civil rights movement scholar, was also arrested.
“We hear the weeping of the school teacher who’s given her life for her students, who sees this legislature that’s turned its back on public education for all,” he told the AP.
Our own Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, was also arrested. The veteran civil rights activist is no stranger to the inside of a holding cell. His battles for justice have taken him to the front lines of struggles around the globe. State Sen. Earline Parmon helped to facilitate Mendez’s release early Tuesday morning. Parmon said she understood the protestors’ desire to take a stand.
“The act of civil disobedience is necessary in such times as this against the right wing policies of the state led GOP,” she said in a statement released by her office.
If the powers that be expect the praying, rallying and fighting to cease, they are naive. Much blood and tears were shed to secure basic rights for African Americans. Trying to take those rights away is a declaration of war.
We are not advocating for some sort of violent revolt, of course, but a civil one that would make our forefathers and foremothers proud. Lawmakers are resolute to legislate us back to Jim Crow; we must reuse the tools that freed us from that system.