According to reports, Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Washington has initiated a bill that would allow prosecutors to punish protesters and rioters who engage in what he has deemed “economic terrorism.” The measure was introduced after violent riots broke out in the state following the presidential election.
According to KCPQ, a news brief published Wednesday states Ericksen explained that the bill would permit the felony prosecution for “those who intentionally break the law in an attempt to intimidate or coerce private citizens or the government by obstructing economic activity.”
“I respect the right to protest, but when it endangers people’s lives and property, it goes too far,” Ericksen argued. “Fear, intimidation and vandalism are not a legitimate form of political expression. Those who employ it must be called to account.”
The measure also holds those who “fund, organize, sponsor or encourage others to commit acts of economic terrorism” liable.
“We are not just going after the people who commit these acts of terrorism,” he continued. “We are going after the people who fund them. Wealthy donors should not feel safe in disrupting middle class jobs.”
Given that the proposal would not apply to Americans who engage in peaceful protests, the measure stands a chance (though slim) of making it through to the end. It would target only those who attempt to block traffic or place the safety of the public at risk. Ericksen’s proposal would raise misdemeanor trespassing laws to the level of a felony.
The state faces several obstacles to getting the measure passed, including a divided legislature and the interference of the American Civil Liberties Union, who has already called the proposal “inflammatory” and “unnecessary.”