RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Following a summer of countless protests and demonstrations, some leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly want tougher penalties for people who commit felonies during protests and riots.
“I know we all support protesting, that’s fine,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). “But some of the lawlessness has gotten out of hand and riots.”
Moore mentioned the possibility of stricter legislation during a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday. He explained, “There are talks about for example if someone is out committing a felony during a riot, doing like a 48-hour hold as we do in domestic violence cases, kind of a cool-down period.”
Kerwin Pittman is a social justice activist in Raleigh. Pittman tells CBS 17 he peacefully protested for George Floyd in downtown Raleigh, and most recently, for Jacob Blake. He believes adding penalties only demonstrates the need for people to protest.
“It is extremely egregious to think that any legislator would try and demonstrate this type of law and order against individuals who are trying to speak out against racial injustice and oppression,” he said.
Moore said another idea being considered is increasing liability for people who loot and damage property. He explained, “Something I think is a great idea is subjecting them to civil liability for going out and destroying somebody’s property, punitive damages.”
Pittman’s concern is that in a crowded protest, it can be difficult to pinpoint who’s responsible, which could lead to unjustified arrests.
He tells CBS 17 that lawmakers considering these ideas should spend a day walking in their shoes.
“The issue is, they’re [state lawmakers] so disconnected from the individuals who are out there protesting, that they feel the need to lock these individuals up and consider them a threat to public safety,” said Pittman. “But if they were to participate in the process, they would get a clear understanding of what’s going on and why individuals are really out there on the ground.”
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