By JAY LAMM | WSJ30.com
Does everyone have the right to use their First Amendment rights in North Carolina? Apparently not says Michelle Heathcote, an organizer of peaceful protest on the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh.
On Sunday, Nov. 1, Heathcote and other protestors, including residents from Wake Forest, had a NonEssential peaceful protest. The protest was part of movement taking place across the nation as an extension of actor Kirk Cameron’s Nonessential event. The events for conservative voices to come together and encourage Christians to vote.
Heathcote said their group had received permission to hold the event the week before and had a permit signed by the state Capitol police chief. But the permit did not stop the group from getting harassed by passing drivers. One being Gov. Roy Cooper’s wife, Kristin Cooper.
Event barricades were put up around the state Capitol grounds and officers told the event organizers, someone would be there to let them in.
“Officers Davis and Coley of the Raleigh State Capitol Police had the entrances opened for us before we got there and helped us find the power outlet to plug in our amplifier. They were very nice and helpful,” said Heathcote.
Soon after the event started around 2:15 p.m. Heathcote was told they had to move out of the barricade and move on to the curb.
“A police officer came and told us Chief Hawley of the state police was demanding we move. It was Chief Hawley, who had previously approved and signed the permit for the protest,” said the organizer.
“The permit was signed by Chief Hawley and it was clearly marked. Chief Hawley has already approved our peaceful protest, and since he is appointed directly by the governor, in that moment, it felt like we were being shut down directly be Gov. Cooper.”
After the move to the curb, the police protection the group was promised left. At that time, the group was exposed to traffic and harassment by drivers shouting obscenities at the group. Heathcote said one driver directed her harassing behavior at a child.
“A blonde woman with her arm stretched out of the car was flipping of the child with her middle finger and telling the group to go home. Later we found out it was the Gov. Cooper’s wife, Kristin,”she said.
“We found a FACEBOOK post were First Lady Cooper was bragging about flipping off the child on her personal FACEBOOK account.”
The governor’s office response to the incident did not directly mention the First Lady’s behavior.
“The Governor’s message on Tuesday was clear that it’s time for North Carolinians to come together to do the hard work of healing as we find ways to work together in the best interest of our state.”
“As an elected official’s wife, it is Mrs. Cooper’s responsibility to defend what our country was built on. Freedom is speech is one of those things. We don’t have to agree but we must be decent to one another. If we can’t do that, what kind of American are we living in? We find her reaction less then honorable and inconsistent with the dignity of office her position ought to hold, said Garrett Heathcote, an event organizer.”
Editor’s note: After publication of this article, First Lady Kristen Cooper made this statement:
“My personal Facebook comments and actions leading to it were inappropriate, and I am so sorry. I apologize to anyone I may have hurt, and I ask for forgiveness,” Kristin Cooper said in an statement from her press secretary on Thursday night.