Washington senator to introduce bill that would criminalize prot - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Washington senator to introduce bill that would criminalize protests

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Doug Ericksen Doug Ericksen
OLYMPIA, Wash. -

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen announced plans Wednesday to introduce a bill that would criminalize illegal protests. Sen. Ericksen says the bill would focus protests aimed at "causing economic damage."

The bill would apply to unlawful disruption of transportation and commerce.

"Washington needs to take a firm stand against illegal protests that block transportation and commerce, cause property damage, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk," says state Sen. Ericksen, R-Ferndale in a release Wednesday. The bill would create a new crime of economic terrorism. The measure 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.

“I respect the right to protest, but when it endangers people’s lives and property, it goes too far,” Ericksen said. “Fear, intimidation and vandalism are not a legitimate form of political expression. Those who employ it must be called to account.”

Ericksen makes clear that the criminal penalties, making certain protests a class C felony when they are aimed at causing economic disruption, would not apply to lawful and protected activities such as strikes and picketing.

The bill would also hold those who organize, sponsor or otherwise encourage economic terrorism, and could make those accomplices pay restitution of up to triple the amount of economic damage.

“We are not just going after the people who commit these acts of terrorism,” Ericksen said. “We are going after the people who fund them. Wealthy donors should not feel safe in disrupting middle class jobs.”

The bill has been prepared for next year's legislative session.

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