Hundreds of protesters swamped the top floor of the General Assembly and interrupted House lawmakers during a special session Wednesday night. They were there to protest the surprise fourth special session called so late in the year by Republicans, as well as legislation that seeks to weaken incoming Democratic governor Roy Cooper.
House lawmakers were debating H17, a bill that transfers many powers of appointment from the governor to the General Assembly, including appointments on the UNC Board of Governors. It also requires the General Assembly to confirm the governor's cabinet members.
House speaker Tim Moore ordered the gallery cleared, and hundreds of protesters streamed into third floor lobby chanting. Capitol police arrested dozens of protesters who refused to leave the gallery.
Chantelle Miles was among the crowd that continued to chant on the third floor lobby. But she was doubtful her protest would have any impact on lawmakers' decision.
"I think that they're going to push through this legislation just like they have done with previous legislation," Miles said. "I'm pretty helpless to do anything except to show up and show my outrage to what they're doing. What else can I do?"
Miles said she objects to the way Republicans sprang the extra session on Democrats after they concluded their work on the disaster relief package.
"Come on," she said. "Had McCrory been elected, they wouldn't be doing this."
Republicans say H17 returns powers to the legislature that the body had in the past. The legislature has had the power to appoint members of the UNC Board of Governors, for example, but delegated the responsibility to the governor decades ago.