North Carolina riot bill will become law without Governor Roy Cooper’s signature

A North Carolina bill designed to increase penalties for rioting will become law without Governor Roy Cooper’s (D) signature.

House Bill 40, a bill designed to create new penalties for incitement or participation in a riot, was present at Cooper on March 10. Cooper explain in a statement, he would not sign or veto the bill, having already vetoed similar legislation the previous year.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. (Julia Wall/The News & Observer via AP, file)

“I recognize that changes have been made to alter the effect of this legislation after my veto of a similar bill last year,” he said. “Property damage and violence are already illegal and my continuing concerns about First Amendment erosion and disparate impacts on communities of color will keep me from signing this legislation.”

The bill codifies new felony and misdemeanor charges for “[a]any person who deliberately engages in or incites a riot. The seriousness of the charges varies depending on whether certain property damage thresholds are met, whether the person is wielding a weapon or using a dangerous substance, and whether the person causes a death “in the course of the riot”.

After vetoing the previous version of the Riot and Civil Unrest Prevention Act, House Bill 805, Cooper argued in a statement that the bill was “unnecessary” and “aims to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peaceful protest.”

House Bill 805 contains broadly similar language to more recent legislation, but there have been some changes intended to protect the right to participate in lawful protests.

For example, the 2022 bill allows law enforcement to hold those charged with rioting for 48 hours before a judge rules on remand, while the 2023 bill shortens that time. 24 hour window.

In addition, HB 40 includes sections requiring state law enforcement agencies to develop protest response and engagement policies and prohibits any interpretation of the law that would tend to “prevent or prohibit” the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Both bills include a section stating that “[m]before the mere presence [at a riot] without overt act is not sufficient to sustain a conviction”.

The legislation is widely seen as a response to a number of protests that turned into riots in 2020.

Like WRAL reported that year, multiple protests in Tarheel State “ended in violence, with clashes between protesters and police in Raleigh and Fayetteville, fires being set, windows smashed and looting”.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) writing in a statement, “Nearly three years after violent protests devastated communities and businesses in North Carolina, I am pleased that this bipartisan legislation is finally becoming law.”

You can follow Michael Foster on Twitter at @realmfoster.


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