After McCrory street-shaming, ACLU slams legislative call to shield politicians from heckling

Pat McCrory

Former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory

Officials with the ACLU of N.C. are taking aim at a Republican state lawmaker’s blistering response to this weekend’s scathing street-shaming of former Gov. Pat McCrory.

In the video, McCrory, along with conservative Fox commentator Lou Dobbs, is pursued down a Washington, D.C., alleyway by a band of protesters, some of whom shout, “Shame on you!” and denounce McCrory as an “anti-gay bigot.”

Shortly after the video went viral, N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop, a Republican lawyer from Charlotte, told The News & Observer that he believes such heckling should come with a five-year prison sentence.

However, leadership with the ACLU are denouncing Bishop’s proposed legislation as a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech provisions.

“People’s right to criticize politicians – whether in a newspaper, at a meeting, or on a public street – is the very heart of what the First Amendment protects,” ACLU Policy Director Sarah Gillooly said in a statement to Policy Watch.

“Everyone deserves protection from violence, but politicians who run for and serve in public office shouldn’t get special treatment to shield them from criticism. Any attempt to criminalize peaceful political speech would violate the Constitution and our country’s proud tradition of free speech for all.”

However, Bishop was adamant about the need for changes in today’s N&O report. Bishop, of course, is perhaps best known as one of the principal leaders of last year’s mega-controversial House Bill 2.

From the N&O:

The proposed legislation would “make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties,” Bishop said.

“Because lines are being crossed,” Bishop, a Republican who represents the 39th District in the North Carolina Senate, wrote in an email from his Senate campaign account.

Bishop was one of the sponsors of House Bill 2, or “the bathroom bill” which McCrory signed into law. The bill was criticized for nullifying local non-discrimination ordinances statewide, directing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms matching the gender on their birth certificate in government-owned buildings and initially revoking the right to sue in state court for discrimination.

Bishop calls the group of people of indeterminate number “a chanting mob” and “ubiquitous leftist rioters” and wonders whether the “mob fell upon the former governor by coincidence or if they stalked him.”

Bishop said such behavior should come with a five-year prison sentence and said he’ll introduce the legislation to make it so in North Carolina, similar to an ordinance in the District of Columbia.

“So should it be in North Carolina,” he wrote. “This is dangerous. Jim Hunt, Bev Purdue and other governors never faced riotous mobs in their post-service, private lives, without personal security.”

Bishop said he also will urge his fellow legislators “to take other appropriate steps to guarantee the personal safety of Gov. McCrory by all means necessary.”

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