North Carolina Increases Criminal Penalties for Rioters

Rioters in North Carolina will risk stiffer penalties following the passage of a recently-passed bill. Almost one year after vetoing similar legislation proposed by state Republicans, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) allowed a House Bill 40 to become law without his signature.

Governor Cooper cited concerns about potential impact on first amendment rights when he explained the rational behind his decision against adding his signature HB 40,. which didn’t need his signature to pass after it passed with a 75-43 veto-proof majority.

”I acknowledge that changes were made to modify this legislation’s effect after my veto of a similar bill last year,” Cooper said in an official statement. “Property damage and violence are already illegal and my continuing concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and the disparate impacts on communities of color will prevent me from signing this legislation.”

Known as the “Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder” bill, HB 40, the new law increases penalties for inciting a riot, allows police and prosecutors to determine what constitutes a riot, and escalates punishment for rioters who damage property cause serious bodily injury or death to others, including physical violence to first responders. Democratic legislators who crossed the aisle to support the bill include Cecil Brockman of Guilford County, Laura Budd of Mecklenburg County, Abe Jones of Wake County, Garland Pierce of Scotland County, Michael Wray of Northampton County, and Shelly Willingham of Edgecombe County.

HB 40 was labeled as an “anti-protest” bill by opponents such as state Democrats and left wing activist groups. Emancipate NC’s Dawn Blagrove spoke loud and clear on Feb. 8 against North Carolina Republicans’ latest “anti-rioting” bill. She told a legislative committee that the intent of House Bill 40 was to target “Black, brown, and marginalized people” engaging in nonviolent protests. The committee chair responded that her comments were “out of order.”

Matt O'Hern
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