by Scott Mooneyham
The fellow who heads the General Assembly police caused quite a stir the other day when he testified in court that his police force had labeled some Raleigh-area people “anarchists” and collected intelligence on them.
According to a Raleigh newspaper, the remark provoked “a murmur of disbelief” among many of the lawyers in the room.
Jeff Weaver, who is chief of the 18-member legislative police department, was in court for the first trial of a “Moral Monday” protester, one of the hundreds arrested during a series of summer protests opposing the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly.
Weaver testified that his officers kept an eye out for the anarchists during those protests.
His testimony followed revelations that the Raleigh Police Department sent an undercover officer into the protest planning sessions, organized by the NAACP and its state president, the Rev. William Barber.
A Raleigh police spokeswoman later said that the department’s presence was to determine how many people planned to be arrested.
The murmurs in the courtroom likely were the result of lawyers in the crowd understanding that this kind of police surveillance has the potential to run afoul of a fundamental right spelled out in the 1st Amendment, the right to peaceably assemble.
After his testimony, Weaver declined to say exactly who his department considered an anarchist or what intelligence they had gathered.
My suspicion is that his “anarchists” are members of Raleigh FIST, a far-left group of mostly college students who were active in legislative protests a year earlier.
I have no idea whether those folks are actual anarchists, defined by Merriam-Webster as someone “who believes that government and laws are not necessary.”
As for Barber and his fellow “Moral Monday” supporters, they seem about as far from anarchists as you can get.
Just listen to some of his words, from this summer:
“We don’t have a deficit of money; we have a deficit of character.”
“The goal of Moral Monday was, first of all, to challenge the immoral positions of cutting 500,000 people from Medicaid and 170,000 people’s unemployment …”
Those are hardly the comments of someone who wants no government or laws, or even less government for that matter.
Still, Weaver may be right. Anarchists could be out and about.
Rumor has it that a couple hundred people to the north have embraced this idea that government is not necessary. In fact, they have embarked on a campaign to stop payment for government -- shutting down parks, halting health care programs and sending home military contractors.
Word is that they mostly keep their Che Guevara T-shirts hidden beneath their $1,000-dollar suits.
Fortunately for Weaver, these radical anarchists are not too hard to find. They allegedly hang out in a giant domed building in Washington.
I’d suggest that he get his police force up there right away to begin gathering intelligence.
Who knows when this unruly mob of radicals might descend upon Raleigh?
—Scott Mooneyham covers the state Legislature for the Capitol Press Association.