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Moral Monday arrest cases could soon be dismissed

Hundreds of Moral Monday protesters arrested last summer could have their cases dismissed—thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court win by anti-abortion activists.

Hundreds of Moral Monday protesters arrested in North Carolina could soon have their cases dismissed—thanks in large part to a recent victory at the U.S. Supreme Court by anti-abortion activists.

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Wake County District Attorney Ned Mangum announced Tuesday that he would review hundreds of the arrest cases, which stemmed from civil disobedience events held last year at the state capitol in Raleigh, with the expectation that most would be dismissed, The Charlotte News and Observer reported.

Mangum was responding to a ruling Friday by Judge Donald Stephens that the constitutional rights of a protester, Pastor Leonard Beeghley of Durham, were violated when he was arrested at a June 2013 protest.

Stephens's ruling was triggered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision from June, when a Massachusetts law allowing protest-free zones around abortion clinics was struck down. The Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that barring protests on public property, even in certain limited spaces, violates the Constitution. The law had been challenged by an anti-abortion group. 

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Soon afterward, a North Carolina judge threw out five cases stemming from the arrests of Moral Monday protesters, citing the Supreme Court's ruling. Stephens's ruling followed suit Friday. Mangum, the prosecutor, said his office had no intention of appealing Mangum's decision. 

Since last spring, the Moral Monday demonstrations have brought together representatives from the civil rights, labor, environmental, women's-health, and other progressive movements to protest the hard-right shift that North Carolina Republicans have enacted. More than 900 protesters were arrested last summer, many for refusing to leave an area outside the capitol building.

Rev. William Barber II, the head of the state NAACP who has led the protest movement, cheered Mangum's decision.

“Our legislators or any elected officials cannot quarantine themselves from the people in the ‘People’s House,’” Barber said.