RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The ACLU and other activist groups are speaking out against a bill that would increase penalties for rioting or looting in North Carolina.
House Bill 805 would charge people with a felony for causing significant property damage or serious bodily harm during a riot.
The bill comes after the protests turned into riots last year in downtown Raleigh.
“Like so many other North Carolinians, I saw the destruction that happened last year with, what was not protests, but what became riots, looting, assaults,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Tim Moore (R).
Which is why Moore sponsored HB805.
It would create tougher punishments for rioters.
Causing damage, bodily harm, or assaulting emergency personnel during a riot would be a felony.
HB805 would require a judge to be the one to determine the conditions of a defendant’s pretrial release after their arrest, which could lead to people being in jail without an assigned bond for up to 48 hours.
Those against the bill said it goes against what they protested for last year, which is police accountability and criminal justice reform.
“This bill is a retaliation against the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Angaza Laughinghouse with the ACLU.
“When North Carolina State University won championships and individuals took to the streets and things was damaged, you didn’t see a bill like this come out,” said Kerwin Pittman with Emancipate North Carolina.
Activists said it would lead to unfair targeting of black and brown people.
Law Expert Shawn Fields said the way the bill is written doesn’t violate any rights, but it gives enormous discretion to police officers on the ground to make arrests.
“It has less to do with the particular things that are being criminalized in this statute than it does the way the criminal justice system has worked in this country from the beginning,” said Fields, assistant professor of law at Campbell University.
Activists worry it would deter people from protesting because they worry acts like brushing up against an officer could lead to a felony charge.
“This bill HB805 is racist. It’s an anti-Black Lives Matter bill,” said attorney Dawn Blagrove with Emancipate NC.
CBS 17’s Bridget Chapman asked Moore what his response was to the bill being called an anti-Black Lives Matter bill and racist.
“That’s a ridiculous claim,” he said. “This law applies to anyone who would go in and destroy property. Like so many Americans, I was outraged at what I saw at the U.S. Capitol. The destruction that happened there.”
The House passed the bill.
It now goes to the Senate.
When asked about the bill on Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper (D)said people who take part in riots should be prosecuted.
He said the state’s made significant proposals about racial equity, but the bill doesn’t include any of them, so he has issues with the bill by itself.
Cooper said he needs to review it further if it makes it to his desk.
Dozens of other states are also looking at or have passed anti-riot bills.