OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state Republican Senator Doug Ericksen announced Wednesday plans to introduce a bill that would lead to stricter penalties for those involved with or participating in illegal protests.
Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said he has prepared a bill for the next legislative session that would create a new crime of "economic terrorism." If approved, it 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’s measure would create a class C felony when protests aimed at causing economic disruption jeopardize human life and property. It would not apply in cases of lawful and protected activities, such as strikes and picketing, his office said.
In Ericksen's measure, the penalties apply not just to participants, but also those who either give money or help organize, or otherwise encourage others to commit “economic terrorism.”
The bill, if passed, would also mean accomplices could be required to pay restitution up to three times the amount of the damage caused.
“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.”
Jaxon Ravens, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, blasted the proposal.
"Republican State Senator Doug Ericksen must be auditioning for a role in the Trump Administration," Ravens said in a statement. "Ericksen’s plan to crack down on our First Amendment rights is straight out of the Trump playbook and has no place in America. We already have laws protecting people’s lives and property. This menacing grandstanding by a Trump loyalist serves no purpose other than to chill dissent and discourage free speech."
(© 2016 KREM)