Yesterday, the N.C. House of Representatives passed House Bill 805, a bill that would stifle free speech and discourage protests by imposing extremely harsh criminal penalties on people charged with “rioting”.
If enacted, the bill would not only discourage North Carolinians from exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble, but would disproportionately impact Black and Brown North Carolinians who engage in protests calling for racial justice.
- House Bill 805, sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore, is one of 90+ anti-protest bills being pushed by Republicans across the country. These bills are aimed at undermining Americans’ constitutional rights and community efforts to enact police reforms.
- While community members and local organizations are pushing for change, Republicans politicians are attempting to double down on the very conditions that triggered the racial injustice demonstrations in the first place. By criminalizing North Carolinians’ constitutionally protected activities, this bill only promotes more police interactions with the public.
- “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,” stated Daniel Bowes, director of policy and advocacy for the ACLU of North Carolina after the House approved HB 805.
Republicans are not only attempting to criminalize protesting, they are also making it harder to vote, restricting abortion rights, attacking NC educators, targeting vulnerable populations and have repeatedly voted to deny Americans financial relief amid the pandemic.
Instead of addressing North Carolinians who are out in the streets calling for reforms and justice, the North Carolina General Assembly is choosing to suppress civil rights, disregard long-standing unmet needs and engage in Trump-like policies that undermine our democracy and North Carolinians.
Bottom Line: Our lawmakers are expected to follow the Constitution as it is written and uphold our rights, not just during times when it fits their partisan and political narratives.
As Daniel Bowes stated, “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.”