New NC bill would make protesters who block roads ‘economic terrorists’

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It was rush hour in Raleigh, and educators wanted to make a point.

They couldn’t get a meeting with then-Gov. Pat McCrory. So they blocked a street outside the Capitol Building.

“When it got to the point of that moment, people need to pay attention,” Bryan Proffitt said.

To get that attention, Proffitt got arrested. It wasn’t the first protest he’s been to that blocked traffic.

But is he a terrorist? A new bill introduced in the General Assembly this week would label some people blocking roads to protest various issues “economic terrorists.”

“If these people are being called terrorists, we’re living in a pretty dangerous moment,” he said.

Supporters of a new bill point to the danger during protests in Charlotte after the shooting of Keith Scott.

Many of the protesters were peaceful, but some committed acts of vandalism. During the same tumultuous protests, some of the protesters blocked interstates.

State Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston County), has introduced a bill that would a new felony in North Carolina: economic terrorism.

A person would be guilty of the crime if they disrupted the course of regular business, causing damage in excess of a thousand dollars.

Torbett didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“We’ve seen in a number of states across the country these efforts to really put a chilling effect on and curtail protest activities,” said Sarah Gillooly of the ACLU of North Carolina.

Republican lawmakers who’ve backed such bills have said they’re trying to protect people from being hurt or having their property damaged.

But Proffitt is skeptical.

“Even if lawmakers don’t take this seriously, even if the GOP doesn’t take this up and pass this through the General Assembly, it’s serious that this thing is being raised,” he said.

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