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Could protest be ‘economic terrorism?’ WA lawmaker says yes

A Washington state lawmaker is using that term to describe the kinds of public protests he would like to make a felony.

Republican state Senator Doug Ericksen of Ferndale is writing a bill that would increase criminal penalties for certain kinds of protests.

That includes blocking transportation, damaging property, and impeding commerce.

Ericksen says the legislation won't affect peaceful demonstrations.

But, Washington American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Doug Honig says it clearly targets civil disobedience.  

"The people who sat in lunch counters in the civil rights movement who broke the law, were interfering with business and certainly the segregationists that their courageous acts were targeted at experienced that as coercive," Honig said.

But Ericksen says that argument doesn't hold up.

"Because the example used there of people protesting by going to the lunch counter, they were doing a legal activity – they were simply exercising their American rights, their human rights, their civil rights, by eating at the lunch counter,” he said. “They were not breaking laws. They were not preventing other people from doing activities."

The state Democratic Party says Ericksen must be auditioning for a role in the administration of Donald Trump, because it's straight out of his playbook.

But Ericksen, who campaigned for Trump, says the legislation is designed to allow people to protest but to protect others from being harmed by the action.

He plans to introduce the bill in the next legislative session, which begins in January.