On May Day , the NC Student Power Union mobilized over 350 students from 10 colleges from around the state to participate in a demonstration against the legislature’s regressive agenda.
Students began their day with a rally at the NCSU Bell Tower and then marched to the Civitas Institute, a far-right think tank funded by multimillionaire and Deputy State Budget Director Art Pope. The demonstration raised opposition to the avalanche of backwards policies being advanced by legislators. They joined a broader coalition of workers, immigrant rights, and many other community organizations for a march from Moore Square Park to the NC legislature.
When the march arrived at Jones Street, students, young people, and others took over the street, and five sat down with a banner that read “We Demand a Future! Stop budget cuts! Stop racist voter laws! Stop attacks on workers!”
During the street occupation that lasted for nearly an hour, leaders of the NC Legislative Black Caucus, the NC NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the Southern Workers Assembly, among others, delivered messages of support and solidarity as students spoke out against the attacks.
Demonstrators then attempted to bring their demands for justice into the legislature and five were arrested – Jessica Injejikian (UNC Charlotte), Tristan Munchel and Dhruv Pathak (UNC Greensboro), and Zaina Alsous and Carissa Morrison (UNC Chapel Hill). All 5 were charged with disorderly conduct, and Morrison and Pathak were additionally charged with misdemeanor assault on a government official. (see their statement below)
“We stand behind these 5 students who took a bold and powerful action today and put their bodies on the line to stop the attacks on the people of NC,” said Juan Miranda, a student at UNCG. “Our hope is that many others are inspired to join the fight back against these forces from destroying our state and taking us backwards. We will fight these charges to the end. The fact that these students were arrested simply for peacefully trying to enter and bring their demands into the ‘People’s House’ is absurd, and the additional charges that Morrison and Pathak received are entirely baseless.”
In a statement, Pathak explained why he participated in civil disobedience. “Education should be affordable and accessible to all students. The right wing legislature and current budget proposal will make it harder for students to get into school and stay in school. My family struggles with finances everyday and has trouble making ends meet. The last thing I need is a multimillionaire writing the state budget who wants to take away my financial aid…That’s why I took this action today.”
Students have vowed that they will be back to continue demonstrations throughout the summer with other organizations, and as long as is needed.
5 students were arrested in Raleigh, NC as part of a May Day action demanding an end to budget cuts, racist voter laws, and attacks on workers. The five are: Zaina Alsous (UNC-CH),Dhruv Pathak (UNCG), Jessica Injejikian (UNCC), Carissa Morrison (UNC-CH), and Tristan Munchel (UNCG). Click their names to hear their stories!
Please see below a statement the 5 released explaining why they took this action and make an urgently needed donation towards their legal defense fund!
As North Carolina students, we have watched our beloved state taken over by dangerous and backwards political leadership. Instead of serving the people of North Carolina by providing healthcare, education, and jobs, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, Governor Pat McCrory, Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger, and Deputy Budget Director Art Pope have proposed a racist, backwards vision for NC.
From cutting 170,000 North Carolinians from jobless benefits to blocking Medicaid expansion that would have provided 500,000 low-income North Carolinians health care, from attacks on worker and union rights, to racist voter suppression, right-wingers in the legislature have made it clear: our needs have no place in their agenda.
Public education should be as affordable and accessible as possible as outlined by our state’s constitution, Article 9, “Education must be made as free as practicable”. Yet after a devastating cut of over $400 million to the UNC System budget, this year’s proposed budget calls for another almost $200 million in additional cuts. This will result in hundreds of workers being laid off, thousands of dollars in tuition increases putting students further into debt, and over 8,400 North Carolina students losing their financial aid completely, denying students the opportunity to attend college in our state. While the governor’s proposed budget cuts nearly $200 million from education it also eliminates the estate tax — which only applies to just 23 of the richest estates in NC but will cost the state over $50 million in lost revenue per year. In addition to the removal of the ‘earned income tax credit’ which has already hurt low-income families; those in power continue to raise that they will gut the tax system to further shift the burden to working people and give the rich and corporations a free ride.
We have tried using “proper” channels to communicate our grievances and demands. Hundreds of phone calls have been made to legislators and Governor McCrory, thousands of signatures were delivered to the state budget office from students, faculty and community members urging our leaders to not cut public education funding, but we have consistently been ignored, repressed, and shut out of the process. We have been left no other option than to take action.
We believe it is our time, and our duty, to fight for our futures and the futures of all youth in NC. We are mobilizing to take back the power from the failed leaders on Jones Street.
History has shown us that the only force capable of overturning a social context is the power of people. Thus on Wednesday May 1st, historically celebrated as the International Workers Day: May Day, we are taking back Jones Street. We are joining with workers, immigrants, and community members mobilizing from all corners of the state to raise our voices and protest the vicious attacks on workers, public education and services, and the people of North Carolina.
We are tired of the attacks on our communities and we will not watch silently as our futures are stolen away from us.
We hope you will join us.