N.C. lawmakers introduce bill to limit protests

Photo from N.C. News Service
Photo from N.C. News Service

From N.C. News Service:

by Stephanie Carson

As historic numbers of North Carolina citizens are engaging in the political process, some state lawmakers are looking for ways to criminalize protesting.

House Bill 249, known as the “Economic Terrorism Bill,” would outlaw acts of protest such as disrupting traffic or business, or taking part in actions that might intimidate law enforcement.

Similar legislation has been introduced in 16 other states. Mike Meno, communications director for the ACLU of North Carolina, says protecting First Amendment rights is not a partisan issue.

“That’s something that should be concerning to all Americans, regardless of our politics,” said Meno. “These are not only protected by the Constitution, but they’re fundamental American values.”

If the legislation passes, people who are found in violation of the law would face Class A-1 misdemeanor charges – the category with the longest jail sentences.

Supporters of HB 249 say it’s meant to protect the general public and property in the event of a protest, but Meno and others point out that there already are penalties for harassment or destruction of property.

Orange County resident Tom High has been arrested three times for civil disobedience at Raleigh protests. He insists that, for him, casting a ballot isn’t enough – and says it’s worth the risk to assert his rights.

“You have to be engaged, you have to educate yourself, and it’s not just about going out to vote,” High said. “You have to participate, in some form or fashion, beyond that.”

The ACLU and others have taken the stance that bills such as HB 249 are attempts by lawmakers to discourage and intimidate voters from voicing their opposition to policies.

“There are already laws on the books that criminalize vandalism, that criminalize looting,” explained Meno. “Law enforcement has the authority to carry out the law. It’s always dangerous when we give power to the government to limit rights.”

The legislation also would allow local governments to sue people convicted of riot, unlawful assembly or traffic-obstruction charges to recoup the cost of law enforcement. Gov. Roy Cooper has yet to issue a statement on whether he would sign or veto such a bill.

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10 thoughts on “N.C. lawmakers introduce bill to limit protests

  1. John Penley

    Thank you for covering this. Activists should be aware that this is going on and work stop it. Mountain XPress is one of the first media outlets in the state to do any indepth coverage on this effort to make first amendment constitutionally protected non-violent protests serious crimes.

  2. The Real World

    I haven’t read the wording of the bill but seems they want to add additional teeth to existing law. Why? Because we live in an era of privately-funded and professionally-organized “protests”; many of which turn into intended riots with people hurt, property damaged and business disrupted. Last year there were heaps of that all over the USA. Some protests are organically generated and many are not.

    In short, those states have awoken to the wretched intent and wide-reaching influence of a international hedge fund billionaire with a God complex. They are merely doing what several countries overseas have already done — which is impede his nefarious efforts. Go for it.

    • luther blissett

      George Soros — to whom TRW backhandedly refers — is so subtle and ingenious in his funding of all these protests that not one protestor has yet received a check for their efforts. TRW will tell you what’s going on. He reads all the internets.

      If you stand in a parking space, are you an economic terrorist? The wording of these bills — built upon model legislation circulated by ALEC — suggests that it’d be very easy for local cops to book ample overtime for protests, then haul in designated rioters and sue them to pay those cops’ wages. Nice work if you can get it.

      http://billmoyers.com/story/new-anti-protesting-legislation-deeper-look/

      • The Real World

        luther – those with your political leanings have already claimed world prize for: Hypocrisy. I hear the next nominations coming up are for: Naivete and Denial. Should be a slam dunk.

        Get back to me when even 30% of Democrats know who Soros is. Their chosen kool-aid media sources don’t speak of him. Gotta give cover to the boss man! (like they did to Hillary bigly, a BFF to George — see how this works?) All that darkness must be disorienting for Dems. But, big-hearted person that I am, I’m going to buy flashlights for all my lefty friends.

        • Huhsure

          Civility at its finest. Boy, I’m glad the MX has drawn that line in the sand.

        • luther blissett

          “see how this works?”

          You do, clearly, because you read all the internets. Anyone in Asheville receive a check? Anyone in NC? That’s an easy question to answer with “yes” or “no”, not by resorting to a new version of the Jewish financier conspiracy theory that’s so mysterious it doesn’t seem to involve actually financing anyone.

          Would marching over a road bridge constitute economic terrorism? Probably so, if the authorities were inclined to treat it as such. Would a Critical Mass event where cyclists rode around downtown? There’s a long history of private businesses being granted greater implicit rights over nearby public space than the rights of the public to that same space, especially in the south. It ain’t a good precedent.

      • The Real World

        Hey luther — Finally, some steps are being taken by our Fed Govt to hammer Soros’ international meddling with our money! Hopefully, this is just the beginning and they’ll put him to the wall on his nasty activities in the USA.

        Link is to a letter from 6 Senators asking Sec of State Tillerson to investigate US Aid money awarded to the Open Society Foundation to “promote democracy” overseas. Cannot even believe he gets our taxpayer money to do his underhanded work. Sick! https://www.scribd.com/document/341866712/Lee-Inhofe-Letter-to-Secretary-Tillerson#from_embed

        Wake up! Do yourself a favor and stop defending this bad actor. You should be ashamed and, wow, would he be chuckling if he knew little ole you comes to his defense. Can’t make this stuff up.

  3. Lulz

    LOL maybe if they’d clean up after themselves instead of costing taxpayers money, they wouldn’t need to be stopped?

    • DreadT

      If they were ticketed for littering, it would solve this problem. There are currently plenty of laws already on the books that cover any of the problems mentioned with protests.

      Creating new laws to punish protesters is not a good thing.

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