Statehouse Bill Proposes New Penalties For 'Economic Terrorism'

Statehouse Bill Proposes New Penalties For 'Economic Terrorism'

5:16pm Mar 03, 2017
Protesters marching in Charlotte after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. (Tom Bullock/WFAE)

A bill filed Thursday in the North Carolina General Assembly aims to curb what it calls “economic terrorism.” House Bill 249 would place new penalties on protesters who cause damage or disrupt businesses.

The legislation outlines three conditions that must be met for a person to be guilty of economic terrorism.

First, a person must “willfully or maliciously or with reckless disregard” interrupt the flow of regular business. Second, the disruption must result in damages exceeding $1,000. And finally, the person must be trying to intimidate civilians or the government.

Under the bill, someone accused of economic terrorism could face felony charges.

This measure also makes it illegal to impede the flow of traffic by standing, sitting, or lying down in the road, a tactic sometimes used by protesters.

Elon University political science professor Jason Husser says HB 249 marks the latest battle between first amendment rights and security.

He says he sees a connection between this bill, the Charlotte protests against the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016, and more recent protests organized by the North Carolina NAACP.

“It is hard to look at this bill and take it outside of the context of the NAACP’s actions,” Husser says. “It would be difficult to honestly speculate that this just came about because of some universal principle, and not because of liberal backlash against the Republican general assembly.”

Husser also points out that this bill is only the latest in a wave of similar proposals aimed at toughening penalties on protesters. Those states include including Minnesota, Washington, Michigan, and others.

Republican North Carolina Rep. John Torbett, the main sponsor of HB 249, did not respond to WFDD’s request for comment.

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