RALEIGH, N.C. - Earlier today, the N.C. House of Representatives passed HB 805, a measure that would impose harsh penalties for protesters who are charged with “rioting.” The ACLU of North Carolina opposed the bill as it quickly moved through the House over the past week.
Daniel Bowes, director of policy and advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina, issued the following statement after the House approved HB 805:
“If enacted, HB 805 would dissuade many people from engaging in peaceful and constitutionally protected acts of protest. Protesters calling for racial justice, and people who engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, would risk being detained for an extended period of time and punished with years in prison for property damage that they have not caused.
“We know that people of color are far more likely to suffer unfair and unnecessary harm when law enforcement is given broad discretion to arrest, charge, and severely punish people. This will surely be the insidious legacy of HB 805 if the N.C. Senate fails to prevent its passage.
“A better way to address the waves of protests we’ve seen in recent months would be for lawmakers to listen to calls of North Carolinians calling for reforms to address the harm of systemic racism. Creating harsher penalties for our state’s already vague and problematic riot laws does nothing to address the underlying issues that motivate people to protest or engage in civil disobedience.
“We should listen to the anguish behind the calls of protestors seeking to end systemic racism, not risk representing all constitutionally protected speech and protests as dangerous and criminal.
“HB 805 is a dangerous idea that undermines the very foundation of participatory democracy.”