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Bipartisan Bloc In NC House OKs Tougher Rioting Punishments

The shattered windows of an Uptown store.
Gwendolyn Glenn
Windows are shattered at an uptown Charlotte business in 2016 after protests following the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police.

Punishment for rioting would become more severe in legislation approved on Monday by the state House in a measure that emerged following mayhem in several North Carolina cities last summer and at the U.S. Capitol in January.

Nearly half of the chamber's Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting 88-25 for the measure, which was championed by House Speaker Tim Moore.

Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, has spoken out against the damage to businesses in downtown Raleigh when largely peaceful demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd turned violent. Moore lives downtown when he is the capital for legislative business and saw the fires and broken windows up close. But he also cited the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as a reason for the bill. Those rioters — supporters of then-President Donald Trump — sought to overturn the presidential election.

Punishments for the crimes of willfully participating in a riot or inciting one and of causing at least $1,500 in damage during a riot would increase in the measure. There also would be a new felony crime when participating in a riot leads to a death.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, also would allow property owners to go to court and seek three times the monetary damage caused by a rioter. There are also new bond and pretrial release rules on rioting and looting charges.

The chamber unanimously approved an amendment by Democratic Rep. Brandon Lofton of Mecklenburg County that attempted to make clear peaceful demonstrators can't be convicted of rioting offenses only based on being physically near the violence.

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