Free speech still a right
For the last seven weeks, Mondays have marked a a large gathering day in Raleigh.
Not just for the opening of a new week in the North Carolina General Assembly.
It has become much larger than that.
Each Monday for the last seven weeks hundreds of demonstrators — led by the NAACP — have gathered outside the halls of the General Assembly to peacefully protest the actions of their government.
Moral Mondays have attracted national attention as capitol police have arrested over 450 and charged them with misdemeanor trespassing, failure to disperse and breaking legislative building rules.
The purpose of the protests has been to rally against the conservative policies of the Republican majorities held in the House and Senate.
In an interesting sense of timing, the seventh installment of Moral Monday comes a day before the 50th anniversary of the Speaker Ban Law.
According to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, on June 25, 1963 — the last day of the legislative session — the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting speeches on North Carolina’s public college campuses by “known” members of the Communist Party or others known to have advocated the overthrow of the state or nation.
The measure passed on a voice vote in the last hour of the session.
In 1968, a panel of judges ruled the legislation unconstitutional but the state did not officially repeal the law until 1995.
While the state has not seen such a law since, the point of all this is people have a right to assemble and a right to free speech — both protected under the Constitution.
Speech is not about whether we agree or disagree. It is about everyone having the right to express their opinions especially when it comes to the questioning elected officials.
What is different from the early 60s and today is these current protests are not violent and do not circumvent the legislative process.
The people taking part in these rallies are taking a stand for what they truly believe is right.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the direction the General Assembly is taking, you have a right to stand up and speak up.
You have the right to call, send letters, send emails and, yes, rally outside the capitol to express your views.
We sincerely hope that these protesters are not having the capitol laws applied in this way because they disagree with the majority.
That is unconstitutional and, besides that, it is wrong.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark.