A Senior Pastor from Greensboro was part of the group that organized a sit-in at the office of Thom Tillis in Raleigh. Revered Julie Peeples of Congregational United Church of Christ said that Reverend William Barber asked if she and other clergy involved in Moral Mondays would be willing to consider an act of civil disobedience in order to engage legislators in conversations.
Peeples said, “We’re asking them to repeal the very very harmful laws from last year that we are now seeing damage from.”
A group of 15 people that included clergy, low-wage workers, a retired teacher and a housing employee went to Tillis’ office at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Moral Monday leaders choose to try and engage Tillis because of his current role in state legislation.
“So much of this is in his hands,” said Peeples. “We felt it was crucial for him to hear the stories of his constituents and people in this state who are just not making it.”
Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Peeples has been with Congregational United Church of Christ for 23 years. As a woman of the church, Peeples expressed a feeling of Christian obligation to be a part of the protest.
“It’s where Jesus would be,” said Peeples. “Jesus told us to love our neighbor and you can’t love your neighbor when you are creating poverty around them.”
Tillis was not at his office, so the group told his executive assistant, William Morales that they would remain where they were until Tillis returned. Peeples said that the protestors read scripture, prayed together and sang traditional gospel and protest hymns like “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” along with “Amazing Grace.”
But it was the accounts of personal struggle from other protestors that really resonated with Peeples. Peeples said, “I felt so privileged to really get to hear the stories, especially from the young people.”
Peeples said that one young woman was fighting cancer and unable to receive health insurance, and another woman was five and a half months pregnant and just wanted to be able to make more money at her low-wage job so that she would be able to feed all of her children. The most heartbreaking stories for Peeples came from those who were forced to choose between receiving heath care and buying food.
The sit-in continued for almost 11 hours until 2:15 a.m. Wednesday morning when protestors were taken to the Wake County jail and detained for five hours.
Her congregation knows about Peeples’ political actions, and some members of the church have also been involved with Moral Monday events.
Peeples said, “They have been very aware of my involvement and supportive of that”
Peeples said that she would continue to try and engage in dialogue with legislators through Moral Monday and other initiatives. Peeples also hopes to help emphasize the importance of voter registration to continue to make people’s stories known.