(Raleigh News & Observer) Retired Methodist minister Vernon Tyson of Raleigh was among the 200 demonstrators at the Legislative Building last week for the weekly Moral Monday demonstration, protesting new initiatives from the GOP-led General Assembly.
Many of the demonstrators went into the Legislative Building clapping, singing, chanting, hoisting placards and raising their voices with expectations of arrest. But Tyson, 83, said he entered quietly and reflectively to show support and witness the effort to change political course.
Tyson sat on the same bench he had the week before. When that was moved, he stood against the wall, watching and listening. Then General Assembly law enforcement officers asked him to move or risk arrest.
“I said ‘Why?’,” Tyson told filmmaker Eric Preston hours later on a video posted to YouTube. “They said, ‘Well, you’re trespassing,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m a tax-paying citizen and this is the people’s house and I don’t see how I can trespass in a house that I helped to build – and I’m not blocking anybody and I’m not demonstrating. I’m not singing. I’m not clapping my hands. I’m not making any noise. The only people I talk to are you.’ ”
The officers came back minutes later and again urged Tyson to move, then issued one more warning before arresting him along with 48 others.
As protesters gear up to assemble again Monday to highlight concerns about welfare cuts, health care funding, voting rights, racial justice, tax reform, environmental deregulation, workers rights and more, legal analysts are raising questions about whether the General Assembly police are within their power to arrest the nonviolent demonstrators.
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