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In North Carolina, Protesting Could Soon Be Considered Terrorism

Two senators in North Carolina, John Torbett and John Faircloth, introduced House Bill 249 last Tuesday to the State House that would create a new criminal offense of “economic terrorism.” The newly created offense could include any activity that “impedes or disrupts the regular course of business,” including, in other words, protesting outside of a Trump building, strikes, demonstrations on commercial streets and in front of shops, protests at airports, civil disobedience and boycotts. The activity must be intended to “influence, through intimidation, the conduct or activities of the government of the United States, a state, or any unit of local government,” which is the aim of any protest or activist movement. Such language would criminalize the women participating in yesterday’s worldwide strike for International Women’s Day, and fighting for economic equality, bodily autonomy, civil liberties and an end to violence against women.

The bill isn’t an isolated phenomenon. It is part of a nationwide wave of Republicans introducing anti-free speech laws that would dramatically chip away at the constitutionally protected right to protest. Five states are seeking to criminalize peaceful protest Minnesota is attempting to make protestors civilly liable for the costs of policing a protest. In North Dakota, lawmakers are attempting to legalize manslaughter of protestors run over with a car. An ACLU map shows that sixteen states have introduced some form of such restrictive legislation.

Meanwhile, others are attempting to strengthen the penalties for protesting already on their books. Yesterday’s Women’s Strike was followed by the arrests of organizers protesting outside a Trump Hotel in New York City. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests were greeted with the activation of the National Guard. And six journalists were hit with felony charges for covering protests at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

Though Republicans invoke public safety rhetoric in support of these bills, they always seem to pop up after impactful protests in the state or region, suggesting the real reason behind these proposed laws is a desire to criminalize criticism of the government and free speech. Using hyperbolic and inflammatory language to castigate those who question the authority of the government, and to imply that they are enemies of the state—as the word ‘terrorism’ does— is a textbook authoritarian method of clamping down on free speech. It is no coincidence that these bills have flourished under a federal regime that labels a free press the enemy of the state (another classic authoritarian move). Let’s identify the senators responsible for such legislation, and those voting in its favor, as proponents of authoritarian ideology—and organize to vote them out.





Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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