The Moral Monday protests in Raleigh have the potential to have a significantly larger effect on North Carolina politics than did the state’s Occupy protests in 2011 and 2012. Here are a few reasons for the Moral Monday vs. Occupy difference:
Moral: Whereas the Occupy movement stressed physically taking over open space, the title “Moral Monday” makes a strong case right off the bat for a type of protest that the majority of North Carolinians can get behind. Very few are against morals. Far more are against occupations.
Monday: Occupations, by their very nature, required a distribution of protestors so that there was always someone maintaining the occupation. For Occupy Raleigh, this meant there was almost never a significant number of protestors at any one place at any one time. Moral Mondays, on the other hand, focus the physical power and frustration at a very specific time: Mondays at 5pm. This is the best of both worlds: MM protests have the “wow” factor on their side (protests over time are generally more impressive than a big bang + fizzle), but they also have time to plan, regroup, and rest between protests.
Specific frustrations: I think there’s something to be said for the demand-less Occupations, but that something is not “legislative success” or “substantial public support.” The list of offenses MM protests name is substantial: repeal of the racial justice act, overturning of long-successful public funding program for judicial elections, move toward regressive tax overhaul, education cuts, rejection of federal health care money . . . the list goes on and on. These specific grievances enlist a wide swath of North Carolinians–families, religious communities, teachers, students, wealthy, struggling. It’s clear what the protests want, but the demands are still diverse and numerous enough that the protests can’t simply be co-opted or brushed aside by a half-hearted bill or amendment.
Leadership: This is a people-powered protest movement–over 400 arrests have been made, and the people arrested represent a large segment of the State’s population. But the leadership provided by the NAACP and faith organizations goes a long way: it lends the protests credibility in the media (and to the general population), gives access to funds for legal counsel (and loudspeakers/podiums), spokespeople, and overall coordinated strategizing.
Where Moral Monday will go from here?
Despite my thoughts on the leadership of the movement, I do see value in decentralization: there is significant potential for interesting advancement if protestors begin to internalize the principles of the Moral Monday protests and creatively apply them elsewhere in autonomous groups. This type of decentralized and democratic autonomy was one of the most intriguing elements of the Occupy movement for me, and I would be interested to see how it plays out when combined with Moral Monday’s focus on morality, strategic concentration on Mondays, specific frustrations, and coordinated leadership.