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Moral Mondays: Modern Day Civil Disobedience In The State Capitol

A woman is arrested at the state capitol as a part of a Moral Mondays protest.

If you've gone to the legislature these past four Mondays, you likely encountered a group of demonstrators singing, chanting, holding hands and raising signs. And a lot of them are getting arrested. Since April 29th, 153 people have been arrested at what the NAACP and other organizers are calling "Moral Mondays."

A group of community members and scholars joined host Frank Stasio on WUNC'sThe State of Things to talk about the recent arrests, as well as the theory and history behind civil disobedience on a global scale.

Both Larsene Taylor, vice president of the UE Local 150 labor union, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill history professor Jacquelyn Dowd Hall have been arrested at the General Assembly as a part of Moral Mondays.

Taylor told host Frank Stasio that securing rights for North Carolina’s public service workers has been a “50 year struggle.”

“I’m ready to go back and do it again if it will make a difference,” she said on The State of Things.

UNC history professor Hall, who also made the decision to get arrested, compared the recent acts of civil disobedience to the Civil Rights movement.

“There are many analogies to what happened during the Civil Rights movement. It’s very easy to look back now and say that’s a good thing,” she told Stasio. Hall said that the public reaction to the civil rights movement as it happened wasn’t so clear, and she sees similarities in today’s Moral Mondays protests.

Stasio asked Hall about what the protests seek to achieve.

“We hope the Republican majority will at least take pause, to actually talk to people who are not a part of their inner circle,” Hall said. “I think our major audience are the citizens of North Carolina.”

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP posted this video of a recent protest:

Neal Caren, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, joined the program to speak about the strategies of the current movement.

“In order to be successful, one of the primary ways a movement gets it message out is through the media,’ Caren told Stasio on The State of Things. “In that way, it’s been quite successful. The way it has phrased itself as Moral Mondays is catchy. It peaks the interest of the average news reader.”

Caren also attributed the success of Moral Mondays to the variety of different issues being protested. The movement has appealed to a range of different organizations, and  “it energizes a group of activists on state politics who might not be interested in state politics,” he said.

Stasio’s final guest was Leela Prasad, a professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, who is in the process of producing a documentary called "Moved by Gandhi."

She spoke of Gandhi’s early days in South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer and how that transformed him into an activist.

“That is where his ideas in civil disobedience get shaped. He was given to a lot of self-reflection. It was a kind of political awakening to him,” Prasad said on The State of Things.

She went on to say: “As he gets involved in matters in South Africa, he is formulating his own strategy for combating injustice. He knows about passive resistance and starts out there. A lot of those things that Jacquelyn [Dowd Hall] talked about—he’s doing those things.”

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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