Protest over new law spurs arrests at North Carolina statehouse

Protesters rally against House Bill 2 in Raleigh, N.C.,  Monday, April 25, 2016. While demonstrations circled North Carolina's statehouse on Monday, for and against a Republican-backed law curtailing protections for LGBT people and limiting public bathroom access for transgender people, House Democrats filed a repeal bill that stands little chance of passing.

Protesters rally against House Bill 2 in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, April 25, 2016. While demonstrations circled North Carolina's statehouse on Monday, for and against a Republican-backed law curtailing protections for LGBT people and limiting public bathroom access for transgender people, House Democrats filed a repeal bill that stands little chance of passing. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A day of protests and arrests around North Carolina‘s statehouse marked what’s likely to be weeks of impassioned debate over a law limiting protections for LGBT people.

Officers arrested 54 protesters who came to voice opposition to the law late Monday as legislators returned to start their session. The arrests capped a day of dueling demonstrations that also included thousands of people who gathered to praise the law.

The state’s top elected Republican leaders said they don’t plan to repeal it, a stance likely to stoke further protests.

Dozens intent on disrupting lawmakers created a raucous atmosphere at the state legislative building following an afternoon rally that drew hundreds of the law’s opponents.

Ken Jones of Swannanoa was among three-dozen demonstrators who stayed to make noise long after the chambers gaveled out. He said he was encouraged by the fact that dozens were willing to risk arrest.

“It’s a reason for hope. There’s so many of us here,” he said. “I’m pretty passionate about it.”

Three waves of several dozen people held sit-ins outside the offices of legislative leaders. The final group included those who sought to be arrested to make their point.

Shortly before the evening session began, more than a dozen demonstrators walked into House Speaker Tim Moore’s office and began chanting.

A few minutes later, law enforcement officers started leading out the protesters who had entered Moore’s office, one by one, in plastic handcuffs. One man had to be carried out.

Most were led out quietly, but one woman chanted: “Forward together, not one step back!”

Each time one was led out, fellow protesters chanted standing nearby shouted: “Thank you! We love you!”

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