NORTH CAROLINA -- State lawmakers submitted a bill this week that would toughen penalties for protesters who damage property or block traffic.
The proposed bill, House Bill 249, would create the crime of "economic terrorism" in North Carolina.
Under the bill, economic terrorism is defined as someone who disrupts the regular course of business, the disruption results in damages of more than one thousand dollars and the offense is committed to intimidate people or influence public policy.
Anyone found guilty of "economic terrorism" could face anywhere from 4 months to 2 years in prison.They could also be forced to pay the extra expenses of sending police and public safety officers to riots or unlawful protests. The protesters could be required to pay at least $50,000 in damages.
The bill would also make blocking roads during a protest a more serious misdemeanor charge.
Currently, impeding traffic is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. The law would upgrade the charges to a Class A1 misdemeanor. This could subject protesters to longer sentences, probation or community service.
The bill comes months after a series of protests in Charlotte. The protests followed the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Some protesters damaged and looted stores, and shut down traffic on the Interstate.