North Carolina's Republican governor and a Democratic prosecutor are urging an end to the near-weekly demonstrations inside the state legislative building that have been organized by the NAACP to protest the GOP-led legislature's conservative policies.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that while feedback and lawful demonstrations are welcome, unlawful demonstrations are not, and cost resources. He told reporters he has no desire to meet with the protesters.
"I am pleased that it's been non-violent," said McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who took office in January. "I'm very pleased with the way the authorities have handled it, in a non-violent manner."
In a separate interview, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said the more than 300 arrests since April are pulling police officers away from fighting real crime and threatening to overwhelm the already overburdened courts in the state capital.
The latest protests inside the legislative building Monday night led to 151 arrests, the largest tally so far. More than 1,000 other demonstrators stood outside cheering as those handcuffed were loaded onto buses for the short ride to the nearby county jail.
Though the NAACP initiated the protests, their ranks have been swelled by left-leaning clergy, doctors, advocates for the disabled and others protesting cuts to social programs, changes to voting laws and other issues championed by Republicans. Protesters are also rankled that state lawmakers have decided to forego expanding Medicaid to cover 500,000 people through 2016, even though it would be mostly federally funded.
In November, GOP wrested control of both houses of the General Assembly away from Democrats for the first time since Reconstruction. McCrory is the state's first Republican governor in 20 years.
Those arrested for trespassing and other misdemeanors are unlikely to face jail time, Willoughby said, with the likely penalties limited to fines and community service. The first batch is set to appear in court to enter pleas later this month.
Though he sympathized with the political goals of the protesters, Willoughby questioned whether the arrests of scores of people are having the desired impact.
"Get a parade permit and go down and protest in front of the building," the prosecutor suggested. "While these folks may be well-meaning, I don't know that getting arrested is doing anything to further their agenda. I'm just being pragmatic. How is this helping the cause?"
NAACP leaders, who point to the national media coverage the demonstrations are starting to attract, say the protesters will return next week.