Bill increasing penalties for rioting becomes law without governor’s signature

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 8:08 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) -A bill that increases punishments for rioting in North Carolina will become law after Governor Roy Cooper said Friday he would not veto the legislation.

The law will take effect in December and increase existing punishments, possibly by several years or longer for crimes of willfully participating in a riot or inciting one to cover more severe circumstances. They will include if a rioter has a weapon or causes serious injury.

New crimes also will be created for a rioter who causes a death or someone who incites rioting that contributes to a death.

The bill also allows property owners to sue for up to three times the actual damage sustained.

Those accused of rioting or looting could have to wait for 24 hours before getting a bond set.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said, “Nearly three years after violent protests devastated communities and businesses in North Carolina, I am pleased that this bipartisan legislation will finally become law.”

He continued, “While the First Amendment guarantees the right to peacefully protest, those who hijack otherwise peaceful demonstrations to cause chaos and destruction in our communities must be held accountable, and law enforcement must have our support to do just that. This bill has had bipartisan support since it was first introduced, and our communities will be safer now that this bill will finally become law.”

Equality North Carolina is speaking out against the new law saying, “We’re deeply disappointed and angered by the passage of this bill. The right to protest is crucial for all of our movements. HB 40 curtails our freedom of speech by imposing draconian penalties on protestors. The bill, which will disproportionately harm Black and Brown communities, was introduced on the first day of Black History Month. The bill followed protests across the nation demanding justice for the police killing of Tyre Nichols. Here in North Carolina, the bill was introduced in the wake of Darryl Tyree Williams’ violent killing by police. The bill is effectively a mass incarceration bill that will endanger Black, Brown and Indigenous lives. The bill is designed to stifle protests for racial justice, using coded language to discredit these movements as “violent” and re-frame protests as “rioting.” With police violence repeatedly targeting the Black community, it is vital that we have the right to protest injustices. We stand in solidarity with the communities most impacted by this bill and will continue to fight for Black liberation in North Carolina and beyond.”

In allowing the bill to become law without his signature, Governor Cooper said, “I acknowledge that changes were made to modify this legislation’s effect after my veto of a similar bill last year. 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.”