Police arrested the head of the largest federal employee union Tuesday during a large protest inside the North Carolina State Capitol.
American Federation of Government Employees national President J. David Cox was charged with one count of misdemeanor trespassing, according to an arrest warrant filed at the Wake County Clerk of Court’s Office.
Cox was one of an estimated 800 demonstrators who protested Tuesday against a series of 2013 North Carolina laws that AFGE claims to have “targeted the state’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.” Police arrested 20 participants in the event, according to a report from the News and Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
The laws in question decreased unemployment benefits, in addition to rejecting a federal Medicaid expansion that states can opt into under the Affordable Care Act, shifting public-school funding toward private-school vouchers and eliminating teacher tenure in favor of performance-based policies.
State lawmakers have said the policies will give North Carolina’s economy a boost, claiming that lower unemployment rates prove their point, according to the News and Observer report. Critics have argued that the rate is only lower because the chronically unemployed are no longer counted, the article said.
The arrests Tuesday occurred after the North Carolina Senate went into session and the protesters continued chanting and making speeches. A similar demonstration took place last year, with police arresting more than 900 participants that time.
Cox, a native of North Carolina, stood by his actions in a statement Tuesday.
“North Carolina is my home state, and I will not stand idly by while it is brought to ruin,” the union leader said. “I was not ashamed to be arrested — civil disobedience in the defense of justice is no disobedience at all.”