The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

June 4, 2014

Keeping the peace and quiet

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 — Note to readers: The Capitol Press Association asks that you read this column silently, quieting that little voice in your head so any loud thinking does not disturb our legislators.

RALEIGH — The anti-government party rolled out the guns again last Tuesday to secure the Legislative building’s second floor men’s room.

No fewer than seven General Assembly police officers, each armed with two pistols, guarded the bathroom from al Qaida terrorists, Moral Monday marchers and 63-year-old columnists who had to go. It was an impressive display of force that showed the world that legislators mean business when it comes to reducing the building’s water bill.

Or maybe police were there to enforce the legislature’s new anti-noise rules, a restriction established to stem the protests that just keep growing and making the state’s Republican leaders look silly and autocratic.

But no matter what House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate president pro tem Phil Berger think up to establish a conservative version of order in the building, the NAACP’s the Rev. William Barber outsmarts them.

The first week after the new rules went into effect, marchers placed tape over their mouths to demonstrate that they were being muzzled. The second week, they conducted a sit-in in Tillis’s office. The official reaction was to block my bathroom and nearby offices.

Barber is a genius when it comes to staging these events, and as the sit-in progressed he quietly requested that water and food be sent into the protestors.

Now, why people who’d been sitting for only a short time needed food and water so desperately, I don’t know. But Barber played it like a relief mission to besieged Bastogne. First, he asked permission, then he had a lawyer ask, then he sent in an assortment of preachers from various religions. The cops kept refusing, which is just what Barber and the TV cameras all wanted. Oh, the inhumanity of it all.

As the situation got more hysterical (quietly, however), I half expected a priest to spontaneously initiate a Latin Mass, drafting me as the altar boy. Dominus vobiscum.

Needing to use the facilities, I headed over to the Senate side where things were quiet, except for a group of lobbyists who were all breaking the rules by speaking loudly right in the company of Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, who forgivingly did not report them to the sheriff. The rules aren’t meant to quiet big business lobbyists, just poor people and liberals.

Back on the southwest side of the building, the House was broadcasting its proceedings over loudspeakers so visitors in the corridor could hear the honorables bloviate about Memorial Day while the visitors, of course, had to whisper to avoid being arrested.

Inside the chamber, legislators were demonstrating their “patriotism” by recounting stories of American military heroes.

I bet the legislative patriots never saw the hypocrisy of praising those who sacrificed their lives to protect American freedoms while they established a police state right outside their chamber’s big brass doors.


Paul O’Connor is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.


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