First hand account: GetEQUAL NC activists, former U.S. Sen. candidate Jim Neal arrested at NC General Assembly

What a day! A nice rally on Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh against the bills that would enshrine bigotry into the NC Constitution in front of the North Carolina General Assembly turned into kick-ass direct action. First, I'll give you the straight-up press release from GetEqual, and then give you my account - with plenty of video and photos.

Following GetEQUAL NC’s -- a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization; "Rally in Raleigh" today -- an event to protest the anti-gay Senate Bill 106 -- local gay activists were arrested for disrupting the legislative session in progress when they demanded full legal recognition for LGBT North Carolinians. Activists included Angel Chandler of GetEQUAL NC, the North Carolina chapter of the national organization GetEQUAL, Chandler's partner, Mary Counce; and Asheville City councilman and 2008 U.S. Senate candidate James Neal. Shortly after entering the chamber, the activists began chanting "Liberty and Justice for All in North Carolina." The activists were immediately taken into custody by police and are currently being booked and charged with “disorderly conduct and trespassing”.

I was there to capture the whole fracas on video. Jim had announced during his speech at the rally that he was going to go into the legislative chamber, so a group of us followed him in and up to lobby outside of the chamber. And that's where the video starts.

Around 2:20 into it, while Jim and the GetEQUAL activists are being arrested, that's when the security threatened to arrest me and a couple of other people for simply being present to videotape/photograph the event.

Is this how Republican House Speaker Thom Tillisand company run the people's legislature? No wonder NC is going to hell in a handbasket under GOP rule for the first time since Reconstruction. It's an embarrassment. BTW, there's more about the hijinks of the police that occurred earlier during the rally. That's below the fold.

After being told to leave the third floor by Mr. Jackboots, while waiting for the elevator I ran into Laura Leslie, the Capitol Bureau Chief for WRAL (see its coverage), who works the beat at the legislature and filled her in on the details of the protest since she arrived just as things were breaking up.

Jim Neal texted me ("I'm OUT!") when he was released from police custody about 4 hours later (Angel and Mary were also cut loose just after Jim). His court date is July 11.

Speaking with him a bit later he has no regrets and joked that he doubted some of his "friends in the general assembly" will be asking him for an endorsement or to do fundraising for them any time soon after his uninvited appearance today. Ha. He also mentioned that it was an amazing experience to see so many young people at the rally who are committed to fighting this amendment, and he wanted to set the bar to let them know he's ready to work with them side by side.

Updates on the condition, charges, and penalties assessed to the three activists will be available via GetEQUAL's social networks and via GetEQUAL NC's website, www.getequalnc.org.

GetEQUAL:

Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of North Carolinians attended the "Rally in Raleigh" organized by GetEQUAL NC and local activist Jonathan Green. The rally focused on SB106, the discriminatory bill that would put an amendment on the 2012 ballot that would prevent private businesses and municipalities in NC from offering domestic partnership insurance benefits, and invalidate Domestic Partnership Registries in the three cities in NC that offer them (Chapel Hill, Asheville and Carrboro). The authors of the bill included North Carolina State Senators James Forrester, Jerry W. Tillman, and Dan Soucek.

"Rally in Raleigh" Speakers included:
• Cecil Bothwell, Asheville City Councilman, author, & US Congressional Candidate for NC 11th District 2012
• Janet Owen, Co-Chair Interfaith Voice of Winston-Salem
• Chelsea Sayre, GetEQUAL NC
• James Neal, Businessman and openly gay 2008 Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate
• Pam Spaulding, Pam’s House Blend
• Jonathan Green, Sexuality And Gender Alliance
• Angel Chandler, GetEQUAL NC

GetEQUAL's Executive Director, Robin McGehee, responded to the arrests, "GetEQUAL issued a call to the President today to stand up for full LGBT equality, and we're proud to support LGBT North Carolinians in issuing the same call to their state elected officials. As North Carolina gears up to host the Democratic National Convention next year, we hope that the state will be moving toward fully recognizing the dignity and equality of LGBT North Carolinians, rather than trying to further enshrine discrimination in the state constitution. North Carolina residents deserve better than the legalized discrimination that this bill promises."

Former minister and author of the book Adam's Gift, Jimmy Creech, spoke eloquently about religion-based bigotry used by politicians in the NC General Assembly to justify passing a marriage amendment.

I spoke as well (I don't know if anyone taped my remarks), and while I was speaking, some fundies across the mall started bleating god knows what with a bullhorn. The police were eventually called to make them stop that, but they continued shouting without the bullhorn, which was fine. I yelled "I love you too" to them.

After I finished up, I went over to take some photos of these young troubled men. The hard-headedness of these fundies is sad. Quoting scripture, not understanding the separation of church and state. God's law superceding civil law, you name it, this guy covers it. Oh yes, and pedophilia and bestiality was first up on the menu of his diatribe.

We did agree on one thing - a plainclothes cop trying to tell me he didn't want me to ask questions of the young man in a civil manner, and that he didn't like the content of my question - which was to ask "how my marriage was hurting him." It is none of this cops's business. We were both on public ground in the appropriate places (I was on the grass where the permit for the rally covered, he was on the sidewalk). Apparently this officer has little regard for our first amendment rights.

***

Letter from Jim Neal after his arrest for equality direct action at the NC General Assembly

In NC we are witnessing an attempt by state legislators in the majority- abetted by a few in the minority- to effectively repeal the 20th century. Aside from targeting and seeking to intimidate the LGBT community with the threat of denying equal rights under the State constitution (amendments to constitutions usually expand- not restrict- individual rights)-- here as across America there is a frontal assault on our education system, our mental and public health systems, our environment, womens' reproductive rights and the social compact that has maintained a strong middle class.......and most cynically, doing so on the backs of the poor, the intimidated and the disenfranchised.

What's playing out before my eyes is the classic "it's them" divide and conquer strategy, a strategy that has always failed in this nation's ongoing march towards full equality. "Equal rights" aren't some nebulous province of this class or the other; rather, equal rights are your rights, they are my rights and they are the rights of all mankind.

I am but one individual, an individual who once campaigned for elective office as a proxy for those having no voice- as politicians all so often do. My campaign didn't end in 2008 anymore than did our nation's progress end on the battlefront at Yorktown, the steps of Appomattox Courthouse or the streets of Selma. For until the day when no man, no woman and no child is embraced in the bosom of liberty and justice, there will be equal rights for none.

I am no longer willing to passively bear witness to the ghettoization of LGBT people, the poor, the middle class and the weak. No body and no individual has the rightful dominion to diminish the unalienable rights to to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our United States of America.

This note in response to my defiance of the law today is neither some personal manifesto, act of self-aggrandizement, stunt nor press release. It's been a long day and I felt like recording my thoughts and forwarding them to a collection of friends and family. What I and other did today was hardly courageous or unprecedented. I will say that my personal expression of civil disobedience today was perhaps the most noble gesture I have made in my lifetime.

As some of you know, two of my heroes are Alexander the Great (hence, the name of my business The Agema Group) and Sir Winston Churchill (hence, the name of my youngest son Winston Dwyer Neal.) Both men captured my fancy for their courage and leadership and defiance. Alexander, the King of all kings, always led his troops into battle from the front line (protected by his elite regiment, the agema) putting his life at most risk. And Sir Winston, amongst his many quips, said:

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something sometime in your life.

Thanks for your support.

I'm still standing.

jim

Photos from the rally. This album is also on Facebook.

Comments

What is shocking

Is the behavior of the Capitol police both inside the Gen Assembly building and out on Halifax Mall. I learned last night that the ACLU - NC has already been looking into similar behavior at other events and protests.

--
Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend
www.pamshouseblend.com

Hey Pam

Sorry I missed you. I was there at 12 but had to leave immediately to help a family member in a car wreck. Some of the "police" were Sergeant-at-Arms staff, not actually State Capitol Police but function as bouncers and ushers at meetings. Though there are old-timers, there is a partisan tinge to Sergeant-at-Arms appointments. For example Champ Claris and Todd Batchelor are staff members who ran as Republicans, unsuccessfully, for public office. I think Batchelor was in your video, younger guy with a beard. Previously worked for Rep David Lewis. Claris, also a realtor, is on Twitter:

champclaris Champ Claris
Well the excitement came early. A couple clowns came in2 the chamber shouting. Not nearly as fun as NAACP last week. #ncga

Can we verify this?

Surely even the Tarheel Taliban would find it unconscionable to allow this kind of creature to be on the public payroll.

Champ Claris should be summarily fired for this public display of disdain for the citizens he works for. In other words, Champ Claris is just another government-hating asshole slopping at the public trough.

Plus he's a Realtor Tick. Plus they say he's one of teh gayz. To my knowledge. Is this the guy?

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Thanks, Greg

I'm surprised somebody hasn't fragged this guy, but I can see why teh baggers just loooooove them some Champiness.

Pardon me while I go throw up.

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Neal and others were wrong...

...to do what they did. Equality NC has spent years trying to build good (adult) relationships with members of the GA and then Neal goes and acts like a child.

Some of you all might see him as some kind of hero. Count me out.

You may be right

Then again, you may be wrong. How many of the (veteran) Republican lawmakers are opposed to the Marriage Amendment?

It looks like Matt Comer agrees

with your assessment, along with a few Progressive lawmakers who were in attendence.

I'm not sure I agree, but I'm also not sure my opinion matters, since I'm straight. But I will say this: Divide and conquer is the rule with those who seek to take away the rights of others. Don't fall for their bullshit.

Your opinion does matter

...but Jim Neal has jumped the shark.

And after the posting of his disturbing diatribe, it's time the progressive community (or somebody) has a sit down with Jim Neal.

Anybody that can write this

I will say that my personal expression of civil disobedience today was perhaps the most noble gesture I have made in my lifetime.

while drawing comparisons of his embarrassing primary campaign to Yorktown, Appomattox and Selma, well... he needs some help.

At least with messaging, if not a lot more.

 

I'm not embarassed

to say I supported Jim, and even worked on the campaign towards the end. Rather proud of it, actually.

I'm sure if you tried you could find other stuff to attack Jim with. I'm just not sure how productive that would be.

Claris responds

I'm posting this unsolicited email here because the last paragraph says "I hope you and your readers will understand ..."

So thanks to Mr. Claris for writing ... and good luck with that "understanding.

Hi James,

I was surprised to see your recent "follow" on twitter and even more surprised when I was made aware that I made one of your blog posts(where were you 2 years ago when I ran for office and needed the press!).

I wanted to aplogize to anyone who might have been offended but also put my remark in context. Those of us working down there in the assistant Sergeant @ Arms offices(all great people, men, women, black, white, Asian, Republican, Democrat, and in between) are there for different reasons, some retired folks looking to stay busy and out of the house and some like me, who are interested in how the government works and hoping to in the future get into lobbying or government affairs. We certainly aren't there to police or provide law enforcement, but we do have to perform some security function and try to maintain decorum in the chamber, gallery, and committee meetings.

As you know the two buildings that make up the complex are notoriously porous and open to the public at nearly all times when the General Assembly is in session. Some say dangerously lax in security(no metal detectors, lots of open doors, etc.). So I'm sure you and your readers could understand, with todays politically "charged" climate, the tragic events involving Congresswoman Giffords, etc., that some folks working in those buildings might sometimes be a little unnerved when an unknown group comes charging through the door into the house chamber yelling.

I'm sure Mr. Neal is a fine person and I meant no disrespect to him or anyone else who was protesting that day, as at the time we had no clue who the people were that came onto the floor. But never the less, I hope he (and you) too will understand that as far as those of us working the house floor knew,it could have been someone with much darker intentions. Imagine if you were at work in your office and a group of unknown people came through the front door shouting. So, not to be overly dramatic, but that's where my disdain for the action came from, not disdain for the people who came in, but for the action and lack of respect for those 140+ lawmakers and staff on the floor that day.

On a lighter note, WHAT do you guys have against real estate brokers?! Man y'all are harsh! We are just working folks (working much less now, haha) trying to dig and make a living. Ease up on us, we need all the love we can get after the last 3 years! Since Realtors are persona non grata, you'll be disappointed to hear I am looking for an exit strategy from the profession. I'm hoping to get into a line of work with a much higher public opinion, LOBBYING!

Again, thanks for the follow. And I hope you and your readers will understand now a little bit more of where I was coming from. Hope you have a great weekend and if you are ever down at the General Assembly make sure to say hello.

Champ

PS- this was writtten at 7am on a Saturday w/o help of spellcheck, so forgive any spelling issues.

From Realtor to Lobbyist. I guess he's right. People do have to make a living.

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

An answer to that realtor question

We don't "hate" all realtors, Champ. Some of our favorite people are in the profession.

But (as a group) they are also the largest contributors to political campaigns here in North Carolina, and wield a great deal of influence over folks in the General Assembly. They also spent millions on individual County campaigns to thwart Land Transfer Tax initiatives, pushing the tax burden for infrastructure needs onto the backs of all property owners, instead of just the ones who are increasing the demand on that infrastructure.

I (along with many others) also believe realtors had a heavy hand in bringing about our current recession, by facilitating the sales of high-priced homes via poorly vetted ARMs to people who couldn't afford them. While it's true the lenders are the ones who should have made sure the borrowers could handle the later (maturing and increasing) payments, realtors are usually the ones who brought the two together in the first place, and they were well aware that financial difficulties were down the road for the new home owner.

Lastly, as an environmentalist, I have watched developers clear-cut vast areas for housing developments, sometimes without even knowing if the projects were viable yet, turning our stormwater runoff problem from a scattered yet manageable problem to one that impacts nearly the entire Piedmont, and has impaired the water supply that millions rely upon in the process. And the developers are still fighting to avoid taking the proper steps to remediate this effect, and the longer we delay this the worse our water will get.

I hope that answers your question.

Another answer

champclaris Champ Claris
Honored to be in suchclose proximity to the real estate mafia at the #ncga 2nite. Just in awe. #movers&shakers
16 May

I think that explains

rather well just whom Champ wants to be a lobbyist for. For whom Champ wants to lobby. Whatever. ;)

My "unsolicited email"

James-

I do appreciate that you posted my letter, but I just wanted to respond to your comments. My "unsolicited" response came from you calling me an "a$$hole" on twitter. Surely if someone who had never met you before or knew anything about you called you that in a public forum you would have responded, yes?
- Evil Realtor Wishing for Understanding

Our comments on Marriage Equality

That same day, YDNC held a press conference in the Legislative Building press room to address three primary concerns of ours - the budget, voting rights, and the marriage amendment. My comments on the Marriage amendment were succinct:

"Victor Hugo once remarked that, 'You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.' If this generation of lawmakers and voters should pass this amendment, our generation will reverse it. To outlaw how two adults express love goes against the North Carolina Constitution's promise to protect the pursuit of happiness. End of story."

You can watch the entire press conference here thanks to Laura Leslie & WRAL.

Many members YDNC also lobbied their lawmakers for marriage equality. Those of us who stayed to watch the legislative session in the house caught glimpses of the protesters.

Neal is a normal sane Person

These are not normal times, Neal and his protesters should have been kicking tables over and smashing lemon creampuff pies into Champ Claris and Todd Batchelor faces since they are paid [ Taxpayers of North Carolina]Republican staff members faces. Batchelor has always been a neo-con Young Republican Thug and has work for the prison Industial Complex since he has never been able to find a real job in these trying economic times. He is a blowhard and a typical Police State Coward Republican when expose.. Give no ground to these freaks of Nazism...

And just how "productive" was Mr. Neal's stunt

just askin.....