The progressive pushback continues against a series of proposed laws in the North Carolina legislature that seem designed to weaken voter rights, environmental laws, and health care for the poor: On Monday, a group of 17 ministers, civil rights advocates, and students got themselves arrested in pre-planned acts of civil disobedience outside the state General Assembly. On Wednesday, another five college students were arrested, after protesting outside the General Assembly. The students, who identify themselves as members of the NC Student Power Union, were all released on bond.
In a statement released to the press and in video clips the N.C. Student Power Union has uploaded onto Youtube, the students say they see the laws proposed by the Republican-led legislature as casting a direct and threatening cloud over their futures.
“My family struggles with finances and we have a hard time making ends meet so the last thing we need is for a millionaire sitting in the North Carolina General Assembly to take my financial aid away,”said Dhruv Pathak, a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
A proposal before the General Assembly would cut nearly $200 million to the state university system.
Other proposals would hit at voting rights by shortening early voting provisions and eliminating Sunday voting and same-day registration entirely.
Another new law would weaken environmental law by easing restrictions on the controversial practice of fracking for oil reserves – a method some scientists say fouls drinking water supplies.
One change that has already been signed in to law by Gov. Pat McCrory cuts benefits for the unemployed.
“In the past few months, I’ve watched as opportunities for social uplift and living a quality life have been snatched away from people in our state,” said Zaina Alsous, a University of North Caroilina-Charlotte student who was also arrested. “Health care, rights in the workplace and even the right to vote have all been attacked and our futures are being stolen away to serve the interests of the corporations and the mega wealthy.”
As the protests mount, the Republican-led sponsors of the conservative agenda have been strangely silent. It probably serves their interests best to lie low and wait for the little dustup of a few ministers and students to blow over.
But if by some chance, the student protests grow and even get the backing of some grown, established folk, Republicans might have to start answering some tough questions, such as why has the state government decided to make such a dramatic and sudden shift to the right and whose interests is it serving?