In case you haven’t heard, the North Carolina General Assembly has run amok.

It’s hard to believe that things could get worse: the last NCGA approved Ammendment One, which declared that straight marriage was the only recognized family. And they tried to outlaw accelerating sea level rise by declaring that straight lines were the only recognized graph.

And yet after the 2012 election, things turned upside down.

  • Senator Tom Tucker displayed amazing arrogance and unfamiliarity with his job description when he told a reporter: “I am the senator, you are the citizen. You need to be quiet” (Huffington Post)
  • A House resolution was proposed which would allow the establishment of a state religion, as well as incorporating prayer as a public institution (WRAL)
  • Another bill was proposed to criminalize womens’ nipples. (DTH)
  • The budget committee has considered making ends meet by closing NC’s public universities (a tactic known as, ‘eating your seed corn’) (N&O)
  • The Senate has passed a bill rolling back 40 years of environmental protections in order to make way for fracking, in defiance of the state Department of Environment’s recommendations. (McClatchyDC)

That’s just some of the more bizarre social experimentation going on; there’s been plenty of garden-variety attacks on voting rights, public education and social services for the poor.

The point of all this is, a lot of people are justifiably annoyed. So much so, that weekly protests at the state capitol have broken out, headed by the state NAACP and dubbed ‘Moral Mondays’. Peaceful protesters have been arrested by the score, then the hundred, for voicing their disgust with a runaway legislature.

Conservatives have fought back, and some have fought dirty. In one especially skeezy move, the right-wing Civitas Institute has published a public database of information on the protesters, including their photograph, and city of residence. It’s creepy, but now that it exists, it’s a window into what is happening on Moral Mondays.

The Civitas data record a total of 457 arrests. Of these, all but 8 gave their residence as in North Carolina. That is to say, 98% of the arrested are clearly locals. This data reinforces an earlier survey which found the same proportion in the protesters as a whole. This matters because some, including governor Pat McCrory have tried to dismiss the protests as the work of outside agitators.

Something disappointing about the Civitas effort is that the infographics provided are drab and at times completely inappropriate. (I mean, really?)

To show them how it’s done, let’s map out some information. Here are the absolute number of arrests, categorized by county and by city. Unfortunately, the city data which were available from the NC DOT did not have all of the cities in the arrest data, leading to 65 of 85 cities being represented in the map, explaining why some counties (eg, Cherokee) report arrests but contain no cities reporting arrest. This may introduce a bias in which smaller cities and towns are not represented when city-based data are used.


Fig 1a. Moral Monday arrests, binned by county.


Fig 1b. Moral Monday arrests, binned by city


Fig 1c. Composite map of 1a and 1b.

A few things seem to pop out: Arrests are geographically centered around the Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh), with other major centers around cities (eg, Charlotte, Wilmington, and Asheville). Comparing to other political maps (such as Amendment One or the 2012 presidential election), this pattern is not surprising, however, why it is happening is less clear.

One answer could be that the distribution of arrests simply scales with population, since a certain proportion of the population is likely to be willing and able to be arrested. We can test this hypothesis by looking at arrest density, ie, arrests per unit population. This reveals a somewhat more subtle pattern of participation in civil disobedience, but one that is still generally more concentrated in the central-eastern region of the state, and more diffuse on the periphery.

Arrest Density

Fig 2. Arrest density, in arrests per 100,000.

We can also investigate the connection between population and arrests quantitatively. When cities featuring an arrest are considered, there is a lot of scatter in the data. Nonetheless, a relationship is statistically clear (p ~0.0005), explaining about 25% of the variation in the data (r**2 = 0.26). Including the states counties without arrests increases the significance and the explanatory power of the relationship (r**2 = 0.31).

arrests vs population by county

Fig 3. Arrests vs. population with linear fits. Whole-state fit (green): slope = 6.01e-05 arrests/person, r**2 = 0.31, p~2e-09. Arresting counties fit (magenta): slope = 5.8e-05 arrests/person, r**2 = 0.26, p~0.0005

Arrests vs population by city

Figure 4. Arrests vs population binned by city.

Another possible behavioral divide is between urban and rural populations. Here, population density is interpreted as a proxy of urbanization. It appears that all but the least urban areas are sources of arrestees. Linearly regressing the data confirm this observation; the relationship is scattered, explaining about 32% of the variation in the data, but is statistically significant (p ~ 10**-9). On the other hand, there is some correlation between population and population density, so these measures are probably not completely independent.


Fig. 5a Counties featuring arrestees, categorized by population density, measured in people per square mile.

No arrests

Fig 5b. Counties lacking an arrestee, categorized by population density (in people per square mile)

Arrests vs population density

Figure 6. Arrests vs population density of the originating county. Linear regression has a slope of  0.033 arrests per person per square mile; r**2 = 0.32; p ~1e-09.

Another possibility which might explain the clustering around the Triangle is that distance tends to inhibit participation. In this case, one would expect that arrest number would be inversely correllated with distance to Raleigh. This distance, d,  was measured using Google Maps, and converted to a nearness measure 1/(d+10); the addition of ten miles in the denominator accounts for intracity travel, and allows a Raleigh itself to have a defined nearness value. The results tended to confirm the hypothesis. The corellation between nearness and arrest number was significant (p~0.0008) but explained less of the  data (r**2 ~ 0.15) than other hypotheses. The major outliers to the cities of Chapel Hill and Durham, both about 30 miles away, which contributed larger than expected numbers of arrests. Omitting the outlier cities increases the variation explained to ~27%, as well as the significance of the fit. The fit seems to be better at nearnesses closer to zero, ie, at greater distances.

Arrests vs proximity

Fig. 7 Arrest number vs. nearness to Raleigh. Nearness is an inverse function of distance, which is itself measured by the distance from a city to Raleigh, NC, as measured by Google Maps’ directions tool.

The arrest database also lists protester ages.

Age distribution of arrestees

Fig. 8 Age distribution of arrestees and of North Carolina in general.

The arrestees are all over 18. The majority are between 60 and 70, whereas the distribution of the general population of the state begins to decline around age 50.

The database includes the occupations of some arrestees (387 of 457 reporting). This includes 47 unemployed. In other words, the unemployment rate of the arrestees is about 12.1%, only slightly higher than the general NC unemployment rate of 8.8%.  It is common for the protesters to be depicted in internet comments as overwhelmingly unemployed, but these data do not support this notion. Considering the hostility of this legislature to the unemployed, it is surprising that the numbers are not higher! About 22% of the arrestees reporting an occupation are retired. 12% are educators. 11% are in the clergy. The rest of their professions may be visualized using a word cloud. It’s clear that they represent a diverse cross section of the workforce.

Arrestee Occupations

Fig 9. Arrestee occupations as a wordcloud, ie, bigger words are more frequently encountered in the dataset. Made at; crappy watermark removed.

Arrestee affiliation

Fig. 10 Arrestee affiliation as a wordcloud, ie, bigger words are more frequently encountered in the dataset. Made at; crappy watermark removed.

A wordcloud can also be used to visualize the reported affiliations of the arrestees. This shows a few things. The organization done by the NAACP and by faith organizations is apparent. The participation of other groups, such as the Occupy movement and Historic Thousands on Jones Street also shows up. The visualization also shows that the arrestees are involved in organizing on all scales, from national and international unions to regional, state, and citywide groups. (In an age of globalization, does “outside agitator” really even mean anything?) A final observation is that this infographic brings to the surface some of the issues which matter most to the arrestees: War and peace, torture and the death penalty, democracy, labor rights, the environment, and race relations.

Another common internet criticism of the demonstrations lies in race. The perception is somehow incongruent for an event organized by the NAACP to be primarily white (76%, vs. 15% black). The makeup of the arrestees confirms this perception of the racial makeup. But then again there is a large uncertainty associated with the 7% who reported Other as their race and in the many for whom the field is blank entirely. A more interesting question is, why is the arrest sample apparently depleted of hispanic people, compared to the general population? In any case, it’s not clear why it is a bad thing that white allies are organizing with the NAACP… unless you happen to have put yourself at the other end of that power.

Arrestees by race

Fig 11a. Racial makeup of arrestees.

North Carolina by Race

Fig 11b. Racial makeup of North Carolina.

The Civitas Institute has assembled a database of the salaries of 27 public-worker arrestees. Compared to the state of North Carolina in general, there is nothing exceptional about the distribution of incomes. If anything, it is slightly depleted in low-income members (an effect of self-selection of the data) and slightly enriched in people with salaries around $50k/year (a typical teachers’ salary).

Arrestee incomes

The creepers’ database only extends through 17 June 2013; including the 120 arrests on the 24 June protest presents something that should frighten the Civitas Institution: a clear picture of a growing movement.

Arrests over time

Fig. 13 Arrests over time. Linear regression (green) as a slope of  1.95 arrests per protest per day, r**2 = 0.719, p~0.002.

Data Sources

Arrest Data:  <—- CREEPY. Also incomplete; friends of mine are missing from it ❤

GIS Map Data:

Population Data: