State representatives and business owners react to passing of anti-rioting bill by NC House

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -North Carolina House members gathered on Wednesday to vote for the approval of House Bill 40, better known as the anti-rioting bill.

The controversial bill has been the topic of discussion for quite a while now, due to the fact that some people believe it’s unconstitutional.

North Carolina District 23 representative, Democrat Shelly Willingham, says vandalism happens because people act off emotions.

“In most cases, people don’t think about consequences, they just end up doing something,” Willingham said. “Then when it happens, of course, they’re sorry they did it.”

After a lengthy debate, the bill passed 75 to 43 with House Republicans as the majority.

Governor Roy Cooper is now set to potentially veto the bill if it passes the full legislature, which he also did a year ago. If Cooper does, Willingham says his stance won’t change.

“I know I’m one of those who voted for the bill,” Willingham said. “Should this veto come back to us, I’ll vote to override the governor’s veto.”

The bill would give people stricter criminal penalties for rioting, which Uptown Greenville business owner Chris Gawlik agrees with.

“Demolishing somebody’s business doesn’t do anything for the person,” Gawlik said. “The person becomes ultimately a criminal.”

In 2020, Gawlik’s violin store was vandalized during one of the many George Floyd protests in Greenville.

He says windows were busted and one protester attempted to set the building on fire. He believes protests aren’t bad until properties are unnecessarily damaged.

“I would protest myself as well, but I wouldn’t grab a rack or piece of brick to break a window to make my point,” Gawlik said.

The bill will now go to the State Senate for debate.

One of the more controversial aspects of the legislation would require anyone accused of violating the anti-rioting bill to go to jail for 24 hours without the possibility of bail.