House Bill 805, a bill intended to increase penalties as a means of preventing rioting and civil disorder, was vetoed by Governor Cooper. Approval of H805 would have provided additional protections for citizens and businesses who endured injury or destruction of property by individuals engaged in riots and protests.
An individual or business who experienced injury or destruction of property would have had the ability to sue the violator for three times the value of sustained damages. While Democrats may call this extreme, it establishes much-needed safeguards against protest-related crimes that have notably left small businesses and individuals grasping for community support to remedy the actions of those who take advantage of and violate their Constitutional right to peacefully protest by turning violent.
Governor Cooper justified the veto by stating, "People who commit crimes during riots and at other times should be prosecuted and our laws provide for that, but this legislation is unnecessary and is intended to intimidate and deter people from exercising their constitutional rights to peacefully protest". This is not the intent of the bill. H805 in no way intimidates or deters the exercise of an individual's First Amendment right to peacefully protest. Rather, the bill acts as a deterrent against violent fiends who infiltrate peaceful protests and utilize public camaraderie as a platform for hate-inspired destruction.
Under this bill, mere presence without an overt act is not sufficient to sustain a conviction; therefore, H805 does not impact those wishing to peacefully protest. Establishing harsher punishments for individuals whose actions directly result in significant property damage, serious bodily harm, or death during a protest safeguards the sanctity of First Amendment rights for all other North Carolinians and encourages a safer atmosphere for the exercise of those freedoms than currently exists. The veto of this bill is a loss for both businesses and law-abiding citizens alike in North Carolina.