July 16, 2013
Guest Column:
Found a star on my birthday


By Sandy Semans Ross  



Sometimes you have to look very hard to find the bright spots in life, but on Monday in Raleigh, I didn’t have to look – the bright spots came to me.

I was arrested at the Legislative Building on Monday night, although I was not part of the official protest. I went to hold my own little protest because I feel very strongly that the protesters' civil rights are being violated. They have a Constitutional right to take their complaints to the capital, to express their opinions and to be inside the Legislative Building – it is a public building and they are members of the public. I read the building rules and can’t find any that are being violated.

After they are arrested, they are told that they can't enter the building until after their court date although they are charged only with misdemeanors and have not been found guilty in a court of law.

Monday was my birthday, so I chose to share it by handing out cupcakes, watching the protest, and witnessing the arrests. When the announcement was made to vacate the area in the Legislative Building, the protesters were in front of the Senate Chamber. I went to the opposite side of the rotunda and stood by the doors to the House Chamber.

All but the protesters left the area except for me. I stood silently and quietly leaning against the wall. The police officers were courteous and polite, but repeatedly said I should leave my vigil post or I would be arrested. After the protesters were handcuffed and led away, I was the only remaining person. And I was arrested.

That’s the nutshell version of what happened, but it wouldn’t be complete without adding that legislators who occupied the first couple of offices passed when first entering the building, stood at their doors to welcome those who came in to voice their objections to the travesties that are taking place in the General Assembly. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch their names, but I would like to tell them how much that impressed me.

But the biggest, brightest star appeared a few hours later when I was released from jail and met outside by a small black woman who introduced herself as Sen. Earline Parmon, who was there to support those who were arrested for speaking up and stepping out.

I was really taken off guard at that moment, not expecting a legislator to take the trouble of not only supporting the protesters, but taking the time to meet them face to face as a way of saying “we are all in this together.”

Having missed dinner, I caught a ride to the church where they were feeding protesters and where I was to meet Beth Storie of Manteo who participated in the protest and was arrested that night, Linda Willey of Manteo who was booked a couple of weeks before, and Lovey Selby who was there to offer moral support and film the event.

I was eating my dinner when Sen. Parmon walked in the door and began going table to table to make sure that she hadn’t missed anyone at the Detention Center.

Her bio on the legislative website says she served five terms in the House and one term in the Senate. She is from Winston-Salem and noted as being retired, but my guess is that just means she doesn’t get lots of money for her hard work.

It would be incorrect to describe her as a rising star because it is obvious that she is already casting her bright light wherever she can.

So on my birthday, I had a birthday bash with about 3,000 in attendance, exercised my Civil Rights, got a free glamour portrait, aka mug shot, and found a new hero.

Thank you, Sen. Parmon, for demonstrating true humility and class. 

(Sandy Semans Ross, former managing editor of The Outer Banks Sentinel, is a freelance writer who lives in Stumpy Point.  You can read more of her blogs at www.sunshineobx.blogspot.com.) 

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