Demonstrations and Protests | ACLU of North Carolina




Raleigh — The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of North Carolina’s “Anti-Riot Act,” as recently amended by House Bill 40.l. HB 40 significantly increases criminal penalties for protesting and makes protestors liable for substantial civil damages to individuals harmed by a protest, even where a protestor only verbally encouraged activities defined as “rioting” and did not take any individual actions to cause injury or damage. The suit contends that multiple provisions of the law, including provisions that could apply to protestors whose own conduct is entirely peaceful, are overbroad and vague and will function to dissuade people from engaging in lawful protest activities.

Regarding the lawsuit, Sam Davis, Attorney from the ACLU of NC Legal Foundation released the following statement:
“HB40 represents a culmination of the legislature’s repeated efforts to crack down in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. It is a flagrant attempt to vilify and criminalize a social justice movement. This bill forces North Carolinians to risk the immediate and long-term loss of their freedom when exercising their right to protest. This suit is an effort to protect the right to protest and advances our continued support and defense of the Black Lives Matter movement and activists.”

The ACLU of NC suit notes that multiple advocates noted constitutional problems with HB 40 before its passage. Yet, the General Assembly persisted in enacting a law that legislators knew would violate North Carolinians’ First Amendment rights, 

“Protest is at the heart of a functioning democracy,” said Chantal Stevens, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “By implementing harsher penalties for so- called rioting, the bill discourages protest and pushes the false narrative that protesters are violent and dangerous.”

The ACLU-NC plans to follow the filing of this suit by moving the court to halt the enforcement of these plainly unconstitutional portions of HB 40.