RALEIGH, N.C. -- Hundreds shouted "You work for us," as they interrupted the North Carolina General Assembly's special session in protest of the Republican-dominated legislature's efforts to weaken the powers of Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper.
Over two hundred demonstrators crowded the gallery above the senate's floor Thursday night in Raleigh demanding loudly that Republicans accept the will of the voters in last month's election and leave Cooper's powers alone.
Around 4:25 p.m. Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest ordered the gallery to be cleared due to 'multiple disturbances.' 17 demonstrators were arrested as the crowd continued their effort and continued chanting.
Those arrested were led away in plastic handcuffs and faced charges for second-degree trespassing and violating building rules. Later Thursday night the NC NAACP took to Twitter letting others know when the protesters were released.
Protesters are slated to return Friday. NC NAACP tweeted that they will continue their demonstrations and will meet at the Senate at 10 a.m.
The protests come in response to the Republican-dominated legislature holding a special session this week aimed at limiting the powers of incoming Governor-elect Roy Cooper.
The initial special session, the third of this year, was called Tuesday to discuss a request by Governor Pat McCrory for relief funds to help recovery initiatives from Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in western North Carolina.
As all legislative members were in Raleigh for the special session, a surprising fourth special session was called for the following day. Republicans were initially tight-lipped what their agenda would consist of, but revealed it focused on limiting democratic powers.
The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would merge North Carolina's elections and ethics panels. Current laws allow the North Carolina Governor control over the State Board of Elections. Giving leeway to a majority of Democrats to be placed on the board under the incoming Democratic governor.
The approved bill would allow the proposed board to be split between Democrats and Republicans and allow Republicans to choose half the members.
On Thursday night, the House passed HB17 which reduces Cooper's power to appoint members to state government as well as appoint members to the University of North Carolina's board of trustees. Another bill approved by the House committee would make Cooper's Cabinet choices go through Senate to be confirmed.
Cooper has promised to go to court if he feels the measures passed in the special sessions are unconstitutional. The governor-elect said the Republican leadership's efforts are not just a partisan power grab, they're much more ominous.
Cooper said he has offered to work with Republicans and negotiate compromises. "What's happening now may look like partisan political games but the result could hurt North Carolinians," Cooper said Thursday morning.
In reference to HB17's ability to move policy positions from universities away from the governor, Cooper said it means that funds can be taken out of public education and put into private school vouchers.
"Control over the governor's appointments to head the departments of commerce and revenue, that's a push for more corporate tax cuts and loopholes paid for by tax increases on the middle class and on small businesses," Cooper stated.
"This has got to stop."
The governor-elect concluded his speech by promising to use all the tools of the governor's office to fight for the 'every day North Carolinians.'
"If I believe laws passed by the legislature hurt working families and are unconstitutional, they will see me in court," Cooper said. "And they don't have a very good track record there."