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Protests Against Conservative Agenda Gain Steam in North Carolina

Echoing the protests that took place in state capitals in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere in 2011, the last few weeks have seen a drumbeat of resistance to the actions of a conservative legislature in a different region of the nation. North Carolina's General Assembly this spring has been the site of growing weekly rallies against the extreme agenda advanced by conservatives this session. 

The "Moral Monday" protests, led by a broad coalition of organizations including the North Carolina NAACP, have seen attendance rise from the hundreds to over 1,600 this past Monday in the biggest such gathering yet. A total of over 300 arrests for civil disobedience have been made so far, including over 150 in last week's protest alone. As their numbers have grown, they've also been the subject of increasing national attention.

Dr. Timothy Tyson, a history professor at Duke University and one of the first 17 people arrested at the first rally in April, told The Grio that the participants are increasingly coming from different regions and event different states. "People are coming from all over the state, even different parts of the country,” said Tyson. "I used to recognize most of the people. Now it’s a huge crowd." Some of the newest faces include a group of clergy members who are set to join the protesters' ranks this week.

Protesters have been rallying against a broadside of attacks launched by conservatives in North Carolina's legislative session this year -- legislation that has gone after voting rights, unemployment benefits, public schools, the social safety net, and much more, and which all began to move swiftly after conservatives gained unified control of the governor's seat and both houses of the legislature this January. Recent attacks have included attempts to weaken the ability of cities and localities to govern themselves, and the likely repeal of the Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, which gave inmates sentenced to death the chance to have their sentences reduced to life in prison if they could prove racial bias.

As protesters' numbers increase, conservatives in the state are being forced to react. This week, Gov. Pat McCrory called the protests "unlawful" and "unacceptable," and said he was uninterested in meeting with representatives of protesters to discuss their concerns.

The Tar Heel state has become one of the brightest flashpoints on a national map of state policy that, as the New York Times editorialized this week, is quickly becoming "a patchwork of conscience and callousness." If it's up to this growing movement of North Carolinians, conscience will eventually win out in their state.