NC Republicans Take Aim At Violence During Protests

CHARLOTTE, NC – A bill that would create harsher penalties for people engaged in a riot passed in the North Carolina House committee on Thursday.

The measure also provides more protections for law enforcement and property owners impacted by violence.

Critics of the bill say it is unnecessary and will disproportionately impact people of color.

“The message simply is, it doesn’t matter what someone’s political beliefs are, it is never right to engage in violence it is never right to engage in destruction of public property,” said North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore.

Moore introduced House Bill 805 earlier this week. The measure will raise the penalty for anyone who incites a riot and participates in damaging property or injuring people or officers.

Property owners could also sue rioters for three times the damage.

“When that line gets crossed and when property gets damaged and police or citizens or anyone is assaulted as a result of it, that’s too much,” said Moore.

Moore says he wants to protect people’s rights to protest, while ensuring agitators are held accountable.

“This is really about maintaining law and order, but at the same time balancing the rights of the first amendment to free speech,” explained Moore.

“House Bill 805 is Unnecessary, unreasonably harsh, and it will stifle the constitutional right to protest,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the Communications Director with the North Carolina ACLU.

Chicurel-Bayard says the law, if passed, would stifle free speech and disproportionately impact people of color.

“It would open the door for law enforcement to abuse protests that they may disagree with by stacking charges,” said Chicurel-Bayard.

He says it can be hard at times to distinguish between peaceful protesters and destructive agitators.

“What this bill would do is have anyone who is part of that peaceful protest be subject to felony rioting charges under this law for the actions of other people and that is incredibly unfair,” said Chicurel-Bayard.