A Republican senator is preparing a bill that would create a new crime of “economic terrorism” that would allow felony prosecution of protesters, WJW reports.
The bill targets those who block streets, cause property damage, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk.
“I respect the right to protest, but when it endangers people’s lives and property, it goes too far,” Washington State Sen. Doug Ericksen said in a news release. “Fear, intimidation and vandalism are not a legitimate form of political expression. Those who employ it must be called to account.”
Ericksen said the bill would allow felony prosecution “of those who intentionally break the law in an attempt to intimidate or coerce private citizens or the government by obstructing economic activity.”
He did not indicate who would determine when protesters become “economic terrorists.”
Ericksen said the penalties will also apply “to those who fund, organize, sponsor or otherwise encourage others to commit acts of economic terrorism. Accomplices may be required to pay restitution up to triple the amount of economic damage.”
The measure would not apply in cases of lawful and protected activities such as strikes and picketing, Ericksen said.
“The statement throws out a lot of broad rhetoric, and we’ll need to see an actual bill,” Doug Honig of Washington’s ACLU said. “But we’re already concerned that some of its loose terms appear to be targeting civil disobedience as ‘terrorism.’ That’s the kind of excessive approach to peaceful protest that our country and state do not need.”