A North Carolina state senator has proposed a law to protect public officials after former Gov. Pat McCrory was chased down an alley in Washington, D.C. by protesters while he was in town for Donald Trump’s inauguration last Friday.
Protesters recognized McCrory for signing North Carolina’s HB 2 law into effect — which limited the rights of LGBT citizens, particularly transgender people — and chased him down an alley.
McCrory attempted to enter the back door of a building as the protesters surrounded him, yelling “Shame!” and calling him an “anti-gay bigot.”
Video of the altercation was posted to Facebook (scroll down to watch). In response, State Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) is promising to introduce legislation that would protect public officials from such harassment, The News & Observer reports.
It would make it a crime to “threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties,” Bishop said in an email from his Senate campaign account addressed to supporters.
Bishop, who co-sponsored HB 2, says the “chanting mob” that surrounded the governor should be punished. He wants such behavior to incur a five-year prison sentence, citing a D.C. law that institutes that exact penalty for anyone who “corruptly or, by threat or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, intimidates, impedes, interferes with, or retaliates against, or attempts to intimidate, impede, interfere with, or retaliate against any official or employee, while the official or employee is engaged in the performance of his or her duties or on account of the performance of those duties.”
But Sarah Gillooly, policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said that Bishop’s proposal could limit citizens’ First Amendment rights.
“People’s right to criticize politicians — whether in a newspaper, at a meeting, or on a public street — is the very heart of what the First Amendment protects,” she said. “Everyone deserves protection from violence, but politicians who run for and serve in public office shouldn’t get special treatment to shield them from criticism. Any attempt to criminalize peaceful political speech would violate the Constitution and our country’s proud tradition of free speech for all.”
Udai Basavaraj, a activist affiliated with the Greensboro chapter of the International Socialist Organization who posted the video of McCrory fleeing from protesters, also criticized Bishop, taking issue with Bishop’s mentioning him by name in the email proposing the law.
“Sen. Bishop seems to feel the need to propose laws that limit the freedom of expression of individuals and attack the First Amendment,” Basavaraj wrote in an email to The News & Observer. “He, like Trump, is a bully and bullies use positions of power to attack those without power. Now that those bullies are being exposed, they want laws to protect them.”
Basavaraj also justified the group’s public shaming of McCrory, saying: “That was nothing compared to the way he and his posse cornered, marginalized and shamed millions of taxpayers in this state with vicious legislation and made North Carolina and its legislature the laughingstock of the nation. McCrory is an epic fail, a sore loser and he’s still fired.”
See Basavaraj’s video below:
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