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Are The Arrests Actually Harming The Moral Monday Movement?

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

The Moral Monday protests from Raleigh have garnered national attention over the past year. A key component of the protests has been media attention on arrests. Dozens were arrested this year for various non-violent offenses, a move some say is becoming an overt aim of many protestors.

Amy Laura Hall is a professor of ethics at the Duke Divinity School.  She has participated in the Moral Monday protests from the start, but she says the tactic of getting arrested -- or "orderly submission" as she calls it -- is flawed.   

Hall first became concerned when she brought her daughter to a Moral Monday protest.  On the car ride home her daughter told her that she wanted to get arrested.

"It was clear that in her mind she had gotten a visual that what is most important about protest is participating in arrest,” says Hall.

Hall says she understands that the number of arrests makes an impact on the media, but she says she has watched other people having conversations  about whether someone would be willing to get arrested. The act of getting arrested has become almost a badge of how committed a person is to the protest.

Photo: Fifteen 'Moral Monday' protesters were arrested at the North Carolina Legislative Building on Monday.
Credit Jorge Valencia
Fifteen 'Moral Monday' protesters were arrested at the North Carolina Legislative Building recently.

Many of Hall’s friends, and colleagues have gone through the process of deciding to get arrested at the protests, but she worries that the message of the movement has changed.  For example, she says that the images of the protests posted on Facebook have shifted from those of people holding signs to more images of people with their hands behind their backs in handcuffs. 

“I don’t think that the most powerful images today for my daughters, or my students who are women or men, is to see is a woman with her hands behind her back with handcuffs on being lead away in an orderly fashion.” says Hall.

As for the movement, Hall says she worries that the way the protests are being handled now could potentially have negative consequences. 

The Moral Monday protests have concluded in Raleigh, but organizers will be taking the protests across the state this summer.  The first is scheduled for July 7 in Winston Salem.

Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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