Dozens of protesters gathered in downtown Raleigh Wednesday to demand increased funding for public schools and expanded Medicaid. Police arrested fourteen teachers, teacher assistants and parents for blocking traffic.
The protest began as a two-day, 23-mile march from schools in Wake and Durham counties to Governor Pat McCrory's office in downtown Raleigh. Durham teacher assistant Dawn Wilson made the journey with her 11-year old son and 60 others.
"We crossed over highways, around dangerous curves, up hills, through big thick bushes," she said. "We've gotten stung. We've gotten bug bites. Some of us got sunburns. But we still powered through because this is important to us."
The protesters said they want Governor Pat McCrory to commit to more K-12 education funding and expand Medicaid. North Carolina has the lowest per-pupil spending in the southeast.
"What I want to gain is more for our students, more funding in the classroom, more resources more technology, more updated textbooks," Wilson said.
The march was organized by a group within the North Carolina Association of Educators, which has endorsed Attorney General Roy Cooper in the governor's race.
The protesters had requested to meet with Governor McCrory when they arrived at this office Wednesday evening. The governor declined, citing a prior engagement, and offered his education advisor and deputy chief of staff.
"These folks aren't taking us seriously. And they're not taking our kids seriously," said Durham Association of Educators president Bryan Proffitt.
After protest leaders said they could not get in contact with the governor's office to discuss meeting with his staff, they led the crowd to the intersection of Morgan and Fayetteville streets in front of the old capitol building. Fourteen educators linked arms across the intersection and blocked traffic, while the others chanted from the sidewalk.
McCrory's office said they sent staff members to meet with the protesters, but that by the time they reached them, the group was already in the intersection.
"Spend the surplus!" protestors yelled, referring to the $1 billion lawmakers have put into the state's reserve fund.
Raleigh police arrested the 14 educators who refused to leave the intersection and charged them with impeding the flow of traffic and with resisting, delaying or obstructing law enforcement officers.