The Long Day Ahead: boycotts and protests

Thousands of HB2 supporters fill the lawn outside of the North Carolina General Assembly before the start of the legislative short session on Monday, April 25, 2016. (Madeline Gray/North State Journal)

HB2 supporters fill the lawn outside of the North Carolina General Assembly before the start of the legislative short session on Monday, April 25, 2016. (Madeline Gray/North State Journal)

RALEIGH – Legislators and protesters are descending on the North Carolina General Assembly as lawmakers prepare to convene the scheduled short legislative session.  Protesters for and against House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, were already out in force Monday morning around the legislative building and the Executive Mansion, some calling for the measure’s repeal and others urging lawmakers to stand by it.

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Rev. William Barber speaks to a crowd of House Bill 2 opponents on Monday, April 25, 2016 on the Capital Building grounds. (Christine T. Nguyen/North State Journal)

Crowds of people carrying signs, coolers and folding chairs headed to Halifax Mall between the legislative buildings with plans to hold sit-ins in the state building restrooms and stay vocal well into the evening when lawmakers are scheduled to gavel in the short session.  Many who are demonstrating against H.B. 2 are familiar with the drill, having participated in the Moral Monday demonstrations during the last session. Organizers say they expect “tens of thousands” to come protest H.B. 2.

“As the Moral Monday crowd spends the day yelling, Republicans will get to work to raise teacher and state employee pay, while continuing to protect the privacy rights of North Carolinians,” said Dallas Woodhouse, Executive Director of the N.C.GOP. “It’s unfortunate William Barber is only happy when creating a raucous, otherwise he might have heard about the General Assembly’s ability to give more back to the people of North Carolina thanks to the budget surplus under our GOP leadership.”

Protesters are also there as part of the group TurnOUT! NC,  which delivered a petition to Governor Pat McCrory Monday morning with what they say is 150,000 signatures calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.  However, the governor’s office tweeted out a picture of two stacks of petitions reportedly demonstrating the number of out-of-state opponents compared to in-state.

 

 

TurnOUT! NC is a coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activist groups including the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU of North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality, and Equality North Carolina.  Some of the groups also filed a lawsuit against the state and the university system last month.

“The catastrophe these leaders have created and the damage they have caused can only begin to be reversed by repealing H.B. 2 in its entirety and replacing it with common-sense non-discrimination protections for LGBT people,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a prepared statement.  “To do anything less would be to continue their streak of gross negligence. The time for leadership is now.”

Employees work at a Target store at St. Albert, Alberta, January 15, 2015. Discount retailer Target Corp has started raising employee wages to a minimum of $10 an hour, its second hike in a year, pressured by a competitive job market and labor groups calling for higher wages at retail chains, sources said, April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber/Files

Employees work at a Target store – April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber/Files

Meanwhile more than 340,000 people have signed onto a petition to boycott Target for stepping into the debate, saying their sex-specific bathrooms will be open to all employees and customers based on their gender identity.

“[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. …Everyone deserves to feel like they belong,” read the statement on the retailer’s website.

House Bill 2, which sparked the debate last month, allows for private companies to establish their own policies on gender neutral multi-stall bathroom use, but requires that multi-stalled bathrooms in buildings owned by taxpayers be sex-specific.  Target’s announcement made them the first major retailer to step into what has become a national debate.

The American Family Association is organizing the boycott.  “With Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” read their website. “One solution is a common-sense approach and a reasonable solution to the issue of transgendered customers: a unisex bathroom. Target should keep separate facilities for men and women, but for the trans community and for those who simply like using the bathroom alone, a single occupancy unisex option should be provided.”

The boycott comes after weeks of cancelled concerts, protests and prayer vigils over the legislation.  On Monday evening, the members of the General Assembly will reconvene to tackle a laundry list of priorities including updates to the state budget, teacher raises, regulatory reform, and among others.

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