OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 10:54 AM – Friday, March 10, 2023
A bill toughening the consequences for anyone who participates in violent protests was approved by a North Carolina Senate committee on Monday. This comes as a response to the destructive protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020.
The bill, House Bill 40, strives to keep property owners, law enforcement, and peaceful protestors safe from violence during any disturbance while upholding their First Amendment rights.
Many legislators pointed out how current laws did not deter the June 2020 rioting and looting in downtown Raleigh.
Following the newly obtained approval of the Senate committee, the bill awaits North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s (D-N.C.) signature.
The governor’s spokesperson Jordan Monaghan has stated that Cooper “has worked to increase public safety and protect constitutional rights, and he will review this legislation.”
To note, in 2021, the Democrat governor had vetoed a similar bill that was passed through a GOP-controlled General Assembly and so now, in order to override Cooper’s veto, despite Republicans gaining enough seats in November, one House Democrat had to join the united GOP majority.
Monaghan said that when Cooper vetoed the bill in 2021, he deemed it “unnecessary” and said it is “intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest.”
Last month, the initiative received the support of six House Democrats, one of whom was the state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-S.C.) who served as the bill’s principal sponsor.
“We need to give our law enforcement the tools that they need so that when someone goes out and destroys property and engages in violence that they can be held accountable,” Moore said.
On Thursday, the Senate passed the legislation with a vote of 27-16 with the lone Democrat who voted in favor being Senator Mary Wills Bode (D-S.C.).
Those opposed to the bill cite that it unfairly targets Black Lives Matter demonstrators and marginalized groups by attempting to instill fear. Specifically, parts of the bill included a clause that allows property owners to sue those who violate it for three times the actual damages they suffered, plus court costs and legal fees.
“To me, that reads like an incentive to sue, to get a bonus and it adds to the problems of this bill,” Senator Natasha Marcus (D-S.C.) said.
In response, Moore replied saying that people need to think twice about their actions, especially if it involves other people’s property.
“I hope it’s a chilling effect on somebody thinking they can go out and destroy somebody’s else’s property,” he said. “I hope someone actually does think, ‘Hmm, I may not only go to jail for this but if I go destroy someone’s property … I’m not only going to be on the hook for the damage I did but for a punitive side.’”