NAACP North Carolina Blasts HB 237: “A Dangerous Attack on Protest Rights”

NAACP North Carolina Blasts HB 237: “A Dangerous Attack on Protest Rights”

RALEIGH, NC – Deborah Maxwell, President of the NAACP North Carolina State Conference, issued the following statement today condemning the misleadingly titled HB 237 “Unmasking Mobs and Criminals,” a bill that recently passed the House and is currently under consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“The NAACP North Carolina State Conference vehemently opposes HB 237 Unmasking Mobs and Criminals. This bill is a direct assault on the fundamental right to protest, a cornerstone of our democracy. Under the guise of increasing public safety, HB 237 seeks to intimidate and silence marginalized communities, particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who rely on protest to make their voices heard and hold those in power accountable.

HB 237 proposes draconian penalties for protesters who block traffic and for masked protesters who violate any law. It would classify willfully impeding traffic during a demonstration as a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 150 days in jail and a fine. Repeat offenses would be treated as a Class H felony, carrying up to three years in prison. Additionally, it threatens to hold organizers of street protests civilly liable for any injuries resulting from delays caused by obstructed emergency vehicles. Furthermore, the bill amends North Carolina’s ban on wearing masks in public, removing health-related exemptions and enhancing sentencing for crimes committed while masked.

This legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to suppress dissent in response to recent protests advocating for Palestinian human rights and against police brutality. By criminalizing protest tactics used by movements such as Black Lives Matter and pro-Palestinian groups, this bill aims to stifle legitimate expressions of public outrage and calls for justice.

The NAACP North Carolina State Conference stands in solidarity with those who courageously speak out against injustice. We recognize that protest is not only a right but a vital tool for change, particularly for communities historically silenced and oppressed. This bill will disproportionately impact Black communities, potentially criminalizing everyday actions such as wearing scarves, hoodies, or religious coverings.

We urge lawmakers to reject HB 237 and instead focus on addressing the root causes of the protests: systemic racism, police violence, and social inequities. Protecting protest ensures that public spaces remain arenas for democratic expression, where communities can celebrate victories, mourn losses, and demand accountability from their leaders.

The NAACP calls on all people of conscience to join us in opposing this dangerous legislation. Together, we must safeguard the right to protest and ensure that all voices, especially those of the most marginalized, are heard.”

North Carolina NAACP

Founded in 1943, the North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches (NAACP North Carolina State Conference) is the oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization in North Carolina, overseeing the programmatic work of over 120 NAACP branches, youth councils, and college chapters. The NAACP North Carolina State Conference is focused on advocating for policies and programs to benefit Blacks and people of color.


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