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GOP to get relaxing respite from Raleigh rallies

When North Carolina Republicans arrive at Harrah’s in Cherokee the first week of June for their annual convention, they will likely leave the din of discontent far behind. The rallies — the restless and the rowdies — and the realities of Raleigh will fade in the rearview. 

Throughout recent legislative sessions, citizens dissatisfied with the direction North Carolina has taken have made their feelings known. As part of the Moral Monday protest movement, they have descended upon the state capital in droves. 

The Moral Monday protests began in the spring of 2013, following the 2012 election, in which voters elected Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP gained control of both the House and Senate — giving the party a lock for the first time in more than 140 years. 

The protests have been driven by legislation pushed by Republicans. They resulted in more than 900 arrests last year, with arrests continuing currently during the legislative short session. 

But such protests don’t appear in the plans for the GOP convention in Cherokee June 6-8. 

“No, we don’t have any protest plans,” said Sarah Bufkin, spokesperson for the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

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The state NAACP — and, in particular, its leader Rev. William Barber — is considered a primary driver of the Moral Monday protests. But, Bufkin said, such protests are aimed at legislation — such as recently passed voting laws or cuts to social programs — not at specific legislators or a particular political party. 

“We don’t protest specifically against Republicans or Democrats,” she explained. 

There doesn’t appear to be any movement on the protest front locally either. Avram Friedman, recently elected first vice president of the Jackson County chapter of the NAACP and also executive director of the non-profit environmental organization the Canary Coalition, said the notion of protesting has been discussed but no plans have been made. 

“There’s nothing organized at this point,” Friedman said. 

One of the reasons no protest plans have been made, Freidman explained, is the locale of the GOP convention. Actions associated with Moral Monday play out in public buildings and parks. Not in a casino or conference center. 

“It’s being held at Harrah’s, which is private,” Freidman said. “And we weren’t sure how to handle that.”

Not only is Harrah’s private, it’s also located on the Cherokee reservation. On the reservation, political protesters don’t face the same landscape they do elsewhere. 

According to Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks, any protest-related activity would require a written request be submitted to — and approved by — the EBCI Office of the Attorney General. 

“When visitors are on tribal lands they are expected to follow our laws including those that pertain to public protests and demonstrations,” said Hicks, in a statement laying out the request process. “If permission has not been granted through this process any demonstrators will be asked to leave. I anticipate this process would work in any situation occurring in Cherokee.”


Want to go?

The North Carolina GOP will hold its annual convention at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino June 6-8. The state Republican Party will consider its plan of organization during the weekend event.

The convention will feature keynote addresses from former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert (1999-2007) as well as Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor (1996-2007) and 2008 GOP presidential candidate. The convention will also feature N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, U.S. Senate nominee and current N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Bill Bennett, former U.S. secretary of education (1985-1988) under Ronald Reagan. 

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