It’s already illegal to block traffic while protesting, but the North Carolina Republican Party doesn’t believe the current laws that restrict street blocking are strong enough.
The Raleigh News Observer reports that a new bill being pushed by “several N.C. House Republicans” would charge protesters who damaged property or blocked roads with the crime of “economic terrorism,” a new designation that primary sponsor Rep. John Torbett explains will “add a little bit more of a deterrent” to future protesters.
So what kind of penalties does the “economic terrorism” charge entail? According to the News Observer, anyone who engages in “a criminal offense that impedes or disrupts the regular course of business” and causes $1,000 or more in damage will be guilty of a “Class H felony, which typically carries a prison sentence of four to 25 months.”
Mike Meno, the spokesman for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, slammed the proposed bill and said it was just one of many bills popping up across the country aimed at hurting Americans’ rights to protest.
“No matter your politics, all North Carolinians should be concerned any time lawmakers seek to curb our fundamental constitutional right to protest and criticize our government,” he said. “This bill is part of a wave of legislation we’ve seen across the country designed to criminalize peaceful protest and have a chilling effect on people’s First Amendment rights.”