North Carolina is taking a stand against violent rioters and looters with a new law that strengthens penalties for anyone inciting or engaging in a riot. Governor Roy Cooper, a democrat, refused to sign H.B. 40 which introduced felony and misdemeanor charges for those who engage in violent criminal behavior during a protest. The legislation comes in response to the violent riots that took place in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020. However, it is not a new idea, as Cooper vetoed H.B. 805 two years ago, citing it as “unnecessary”.
North Carolina Anti-Rioting Bill Becomes Law Without Governor’s Signature https://t.co/Y6OYuyCkn3
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 20, 2023
Fortunately, the state’s legislature has the number of seats to overpower any veto from the governor. Six Democrats joined with their Republican counterparts to support the measure, meaning Cooper’s lack of signature was essentially meaningless. Republican lawmakers said that the bill is a necessary tool to maintain public safety and protect private property, while Democrat lawmakers argued that this bill would have a disparate impact on communities of color and infringe on First Amendment rights.
"Cooper lets two bills become law"
These bills will become law without the governor signing them.@NCHouseSpeaker should be pleased – House Bill 40 upping penalties for rioting was one of the bills.
Read about HB 40 here:https://t.co/xodPOFj0Ls#ncga #ncpol pic.twitter.com/zEiMYHgfXl
— A.P. Dillon (@APDillon_) March 17, 2023
The Act categorizes severe punishment for people who engage in violent criminal activities during a riot, and allows property owners to be compensated up to three times the actual damage incurred during a riot. The legislation clearly states that it does not intend to prevent peaceful protests or the freedom of speech. House Speaker Tim Moore stated that while peaceful protests are protected under the First Amendment, people who cause chaos and destruction during them must be held accountable for their illegal activities.
It is upsetting that the governor chose not to support the law, but it seems rather unsurprising given his history with the last similar bill. Cooper cited his continuing concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and the disparate impacts on communities of color as his reasons for not signing off on the legislation. However, this law is not meant to infringe on people’s First Amendment rights or prevent peaceful protests, but rather to deter violent rioting and looting that puts innocent law-abiding citizens in danger. It is encouraging to see lawmakers in North Carolina working to ensure public safety, even if Governor Cooper is unwilling to do so.