Protesting is a constitutional right, but a “peaceful” protest doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legal. Harsher Penalties for Economic Harm following a new bill that could enforce harsher penalties to discourage unconstitutional protest activity.
House Bill 1193 would increase the penalty for any type of financial damage, including anything from physical damage to equipment to excessive overtime hours that total above $1,000.
Law enforcement officials, a representative from the attorney general’s office, and the association of counties all came to the meeting in support.
Todd Porter: “This bill came forward, most directly with the protest activity and the situations in the Bismarck/Mandan community that have been happening since July, since August 10th.”
Representative Todd Porter was the first to speak in support of the bill.
Todd Porter: “There were business that had to completely stop their business for an entire day. Sometimes two days before they could resume normal activity. And then only at a cost of hiring private security and other safety measures for their employees and for their clientele. Our very own bank of North Dakota was one of them. They’ve increased costs for security. They’ve had situations were people have chained themselves to the railings inside the bank.”
However, there were some that didn’t quite agree.
Waylon Hedegaard: “Protesting is a fundamental right. It is the basis of my organization. It is a basis of my belief systems… We may not agree with anything they have to say. In fact, we may detest everything they say and everything they stand for. But they have a fundamental right to be there.”
Although the bill does not apply to constitutionally protected activity.. Hedegaard still felt it was an infringement of rights.
Jonathan Byers; Attorney General’s Office: “Everybody should have the right to express their views, and do it constitutionally. But not trespass in order to do that. Not commit disorderly conduct in order to do that.
Once this gets past committee, the bill will presented on the House floor.