Barber, 11 other Moral Monday protesters guilty of 2nd degree tr - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Barber, 11 other Moral Monday protesters guilty of 2nd degree trespass

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Rev. William Barber Rev. William Barber
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Rev. William Barber of the NAACP and 11 other Moral Monday protesters were found guilty Wednesday of second-degree trespass and violating legislative building rules.

A judge dismissed one of the three charges against Barber and 11 others facing trial for protesting at the state legislature.

Wake County Judge Joy Hamilton ruled Wednesday the state had not presented enough evidence to support the charge that the protesters failed to disperse after an order by legislative Police Chief Jeff Weaver that they were engaging in an illegal assembly last April.

Earlier Wednesday, the constitutionality of the rules that led to the arrest of the Moral Monday protestors was the issue at hand on the second day of the trial Wednesday as the defense attorney for Barber argued  that Barber and other Moral Monday protesters were within their rights when protesting at the North Carolina General Assembly in the spring.

Attorney Irv Joyner said the rules were not conspicuously posted. He also said the rules were vague and had overly broad provisions.

The rules, Joyner argued, were constitutionally suspect.

Joyner also argued that Weaver created rules that were essentially Weaver's versions of the law.

Hundreds of people were arrested during the General Assembly session as the NAACP led protests against the Republican policies. This week, 12 of those arrested are on trial in a Wake County courtroom.

Barber is charged with trespassing, failure to disperse, and violating legislative building rules.

Joyner questioned the N.C. General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver's authority to enact such rules barring political messages and placards.

"Chief Weaver created rules of his own, and this can best be described as Jeff Weaver's version of the law," said Joyner.

On Tuesday, defense attorneys pressed police Tuesday to give the legal underpinnings for charges against  Barber and 11 others who were arrested during protests at the state legislature.
    
Barber and Duke University professor Tim Tyson were among 12 people who went on trial Tuesday before Wake County District Court Judge Joy Hamilton on charges of second-degree trespassing, failure to disperse and violating building rules. All have pleaded not guilty.
    
They were among the first arrested as part of the weekly Moral Monday protests organized by the NAACP against the conservative agenda of Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory.
    
During the 2013 session more than 930 people were arrested, nearly all charged with violating legislative building rules. Those rules give the legislature's internal police force authority to arrest those deemed to "disturb" the operations of the legislators or their staffs.
    
Weaver testified for the prosecution Tuesday that in his judgment that Barber and the others had created a disturbance by praying, singing hymns and chanting while blocking the large double doors of the Senate chambers.
    
But defense lawyers Joyner and Scott Holmes pressed Weaver, his lieutenant Martin Brock and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Philip King to explain precisely how legislative operations were disrupted.
    
Under cross-examination, Weaver conceded Tuesday that legislators were not in session at the time of the arrests and that the doors were locked. Legislators entered through some of the six other doors accessing the Senate chamber.
    
"It disrupted the routine," King testified. "Members had to use other doors."
    
The lawyers for the protesters argue that they were simply exercising their rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a clause in the N.C. Constitution that gives the state's citizens authority to go to the General Assembly to "instruct" their elected representatives.

Closing arguments were being held Wednesday afternoon.

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