North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday that he would not veto a bill that would increase penalties for rioters after blocking a similar bill in 2021.
The Republican-controlled Congress sent the bill to the governor’s desk last Thursday after it was passed by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate. Democratic governors had until Monday to sign or reject proposed legislation after the 2020 nationwide riots following the death of George Floyd.
Cooper said he would not veto the bill, but said he would allow it to pass without his signature, according to the Associated Press. Since Congress has become more Republican-leaning, that means it may delay an override by state legislators.
Cooper’s choice not to veto the bill only increases penalties for violent mobs rather than peaceful protesters, but argues the measure limits the right to protest and freedom of speech. It has irritated many social justice advocates.
North Carolina bill calling for tougher penalties for riots awaits governor’s signature
Cooper said in a news release that “changes have been made to modify the effect of this law” following a veto two years ago, but the governor said he still has concerns over its language. .
“Property damage and violence are already illegal, and my continued concerns about the erosion of the First Amendment and its various effects on communities of color have allowed me to sign this act. lose.
In 2021, the Tar Heels state had enough Democrats in the House and Senate to support a veto on the first riot bill, but now the Republican-controlled Senate retains the power to override the veto. The House only needs the one Democrat vote it needs to have the same primacy.
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Six House Democrats, including the bill’s main supporters, voted in February to support it. In the Senate last Thursday, lawmakers passed the bill by a vote of 27 to 16.
House Speaker Tim Moore strongly endorsed this year’s bill and the 2021 bill, citing the rioting and looting he witnessed in downtown Raleigh in June 2020. Moore said current laws are not deterrent enough to protect the public and property. .
After Cooper’s announcement on Friday, Moore said, “Those who have hijacked peaceful demonstrations and caused chaos and destruction in our communities must be held accountable.” It will make our community safer.”
In the past week, nearly 30 groups have written letters to the governor to veto the bill, claiming it would threaten them to speak out at peaceful protests for fear of wrongful arrest, the AP reported. requested to exercise
“Such laws have been used frequently to target peaceful protesters, especially those fighting minorities and racial oppression,” said Sam of the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina. Mr Davis said. “We are disappointed that Governor Cooper has chosen not to veto this unnecessary and unconstitutional law.”
Earlier this month, Moore and other supporters said the bill was intended to protect the First Amendment rights of peaceful protesters and would prevent them, law enforcement, and property owners from rioting in the event of a riot. Its purpose is to protect people from violence.
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A new bill, which will take effect in December, has already been implemented against those who participate in or instigate riots to cover more serious situations such as brandishing a weapon or inflicting serious injury. Strengthen punishment. longer imprisonment.
New crimes are also created for mobs that cause deaths and those who instigate riots that lead to deaths, and assaulting emergency personnel carries higher felony penalties. The bill also allows property owners who suffer damage during protests to seek compensation from the perpetrator equal to three times her monetary damages.
Finally, defendants accused of rioting or looting must wait 24 hours for bail and pretrial release rules to be set.
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Cooper said on Friday that lawmakers are discussing positive amendments to the bill, but he is “concerned that this bill legitimizes the mistreatment of those who need protection.”
Since then, nine states have passed similar laws. 2020 devastating riots, according to International Nonprofit Law Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.