The John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank based in Raleigh, N.C., has launched a database targeting people who have been arrested as part of the Moral Monday nonviolent protests at the state legislature.The Civitas Institute was founded by conservative mega-donor and discount-retail mogul Art Pope, now the North Carolina budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and it was named for Popes father. The nonprofit gets about 94 percent of its funding from the family foundation Pope chairs. That raises questions about the ethics of a public official who’s been a target of the protests being involved in an apparent effort to target the protesters for harassment — or worse.
Moral Monday protesters are decrying the regressive politics of the current legislature. So far, lawmakers are on a Tea Partying binge of crazy legislation. A SMALL sampling of their greatest hits:
- Blocked Medicaid expansion in the state, leaving half a million uninsured out in the cold.
- Food stamp applicants face background checks, while the same checks for purchasing guns are vigorously opposed.
- Teapublicans want to move $90 million in public education funds into a school voucher program that would fund private and charter schools, as well as religious schools.
- While they’re at it, they would also like to name Christianity as the official state religion.
- The Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row prisoners to appeal their sentence if their conviction was influenced by their race, has been repealed.
- Overrode a veto to allow hydraulic fracturing before impact studies were completed.
- Proposed legislation that would disallow tax deductions for parents whose college children choose to register to vote at school rather than in their hometown.
- The Healthy Marriage Act delves into the marriage-counseling business.
- Legislators would like to ban Tesla electric car sales in the state.
- Proposing a requirement that physicians obtain prior approval before prescribing drugs to treat mental illness.
The Civitas database includes arrestees’ names, place of residence, occupation, employer, income information, voter affiliation, mugshot, and other information such as any involvement with interest groups. The group justifies this by saying that the protesters are not representative of NC voters, and want to prove it. Republicans keep asserting that people are being “bussed in” from parts unknown.
Ironically, their own data charts show that the majority of protesters are from NC, mostly from Wake, Orange, Durham, and Mecklenburg counties. Although Republicans keep pointing out that the rallies are organized by the local chapter of the NAACP, once again their own data reveals that the majority of the almost 500 arrestees are middle-aged and elderly white people. Of course, most of the protesters are Democrats and Independents, but there are also quite a few Republicans in the mix as well. I’m not sure why this would seem sinister, as most grassroots movements include like-minded individuals (see Tea Party). Civitas has a handy infographic highlighting the sources of unrest:
Also, contrary to their own assertions that the protesters are looking for handouts, the database reveals that most of those who were arrested have jobs. A large number of them are clergy members and educators. Even reporters who are covering the protests are getting arrested!
The arrestees also seem to make average incomes and are split evenly between male and female. Interesting facts and figures, Civitas!
Now, we haven’t even arrived at the fun part of this interactive website! There is a GAME to play! It’s called “Pick the Protester!” You are shown three mugshots. You get to guess the answer to such questions as “Which one has the last name of _____?” and “Which one is from Orange County?” Good, times, right? Here is a screenshot of one such question:
I’m not convinced that this little venture to discredit the Moral Monday protesters is very effective AT ALL. All it really seems to do is discredit each and every allegation made by Civitas and the far-right loons that have hijacked my state. It also highlights the very racist, classist, and homophobic roots of Art Pope and his ilk. A study by Public Policy Polling shows that even Republicans are unhappy with the current NC legislature.
Here is the official response from Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NC NAACP on the harassment techniques of Civitas:
- Boston Globe Feature on how gerrymandering has changed the political landscape, disenfranchised voters and increased partisanship and intesified political gridlock: http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/06/22/new-district-maps-reaped-rewards-for-gop-congress-but-cost-fewer-moderates-more-gridlock/B6jCugm94tpBvVu77ay0wJ/story.html
- The Civitas Institute
- Turnabout is fair play. Who is Civitas? http://www.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2013/06/20/whos-who-at-civitas-lets-name-names
- My fellow blogger and friend from NC has posted on this and other relevant issues. Check out Musings of an Old Fart’s blog here.