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Economic terrorism': Washington state lawmaker proposes bill to criminalize destructive protests

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Protestors put cargo from tractor trailers onto a fire on I-85 during Sept. 21 protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Amid nationwide protests following President-elect Donald Trump's decisive Election Day victory, a Washington state senator is proposing a bill to criminalize protests that cause what he describes as "economic terrorism."

Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen, who served as the deputy state director for Trump's campaign in the Evergreen State, says his bill would allow felony prosecution of any protester who threatens public safety and jobs, blocks transportation and commerce or who damages property.

"Nothing in the bill infringes anybody's right to protest," Ericksen told KOMO-TV last week. "This legislation is aimed at trying to create a Class C felony for people who commit acts of economic terrorism which harm other people."

Ericksen also told the news station that his bill would punish people who fund and organize destructive protests.

In a separate interview with Fox News' "Fox and Friends" over the weekend, Ericksen explained that, while respecting the First Amendment rights of citizens to assemble, his bill seeks to punish those who "take it to the next level."

"You have a right to protest. You do not have a right to do harm to people or personal property," Ericksen said. "This is intended to protect the citizens of my state and people around the country from those that get out of control or from the organizers of these protests that get out of control."

"You cannot do harm to other citizens in your protest," he added. "You can protest, wave the signs, do what you want, but once you cross that line and harm other people, that's where this type of legislation would come into play."

Still, many others in Washington, specifically Democrats, oppose Ericksen's proposed legislation, contending that it not only violates the First Amendment, but that the state already has laws to protect people and property.

A hearing on the bill will take place in January once the state legislature returns to session.

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