A bill working its way through North Carolina’s GOP-dominated legislature, which would criminalize protests that cause over $1,500 in property damage, got pushback on August 18, 2021, with the state leader of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calling it “a retaliation against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.”
The comment from the ACLU’s Angaza Laughinghouse echoed skepticism voiced by other activists in the state. Kerwin Pittman, a community organizer with a nonprofit dedicated to ending “structural racism and mass incarceration” across the state, wondered why similar bills weren’t proposed to address the damage left in the wake of large celebrations after state college teams win tournament games. An attorney with his group, Emancipate North Carolina, called the bill “racist.”
“It’s an anti-Black Lives Matter bill,” added the attorney, Dawn Blagrove.
HB805 was sponsored by state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain), who called the criticisms of it “nonsense.”
“Like so many other North Carolinians, I saw the destruction that happened last year with, what was not protests, but what became riots, looting, assaults,” he said.
But in their rush to address that problem, Moore and his fellow Republicans have failed to take up a single one of the racial equity proposals presented since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked the riots that incensed them. For that reason, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he has concerns about the bill, even though he agrees that people should be prosecuted for vandalism and looting.
The bill would increase penalties for those crimes, making each a felony if committed during a riot, while also empowering judges to jail those arrested on the charges up to 48 hours without being assigned a bond. It also allows protestors to be sued for up to three times the nominal amount of the damages they cause.
Those stiffer penalties, combined with discretion usually afforded police in such situations, create a legal ice-block that is “a direct response to Black and brown people taking to the streets and exercising their constitutional rights to protest,” Blagrove said.
“I think it should absolutely be what I hope is a chilling effect,” Moore said. ”I hope it’s a chilling effect on somebody thinking they can go out and destroy somebody else’s property.”
Though the bill passed the state House and was then approved by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee on August 9, 2021, it won’t be taken up by the full Senate until the lower chamber addresses some of the Senate’s other legislative proposals, promised Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden).
Source: National Review, Raleigh News&Observer, WNCN-TV
As a digital subscriber to Criminal Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login