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Anti-protest, anti-mask bill attacks bodily autonomy and makes troubling changes to state campaign finance law

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (06.11.24) — Today the NC House passed HB237, a troubling anti-protest bill that limits mask usage and penalizes protestors that obstruct traffic during demonstrations. However, the bill is about much more than protests or masks.

H237 would grant members of the public the authority to demand individuals remove their masks, evoking Jim Crow-era citizen arrest. It limits the types of masks that can be used for “health purposes” and gives law enforcement discretion to determine what types of masks are allowed. Criminalizing personal identity and bodily autonomy on the basis of what a person may be wearing enables profiling, racism, and discrimination.

The bill also targets and penalizes people’s right to use roadways and streets for protest and demonstration purposes, a primary mechanism for collective action and to make demands of unresponsive lawmakers.

Finally, recent changes to the bill would allow federal political committees and organizations, like Super PACs, to make contributions to parties without fulfilling the reporting requirements provided by the State Board of Elections, creating a significant campaign finance loophole. State law currently bans corporations from giving money directly to political candidates but corporations can give direct — and unlimited — funding to a type of federal political fundraising committee.

“The additions to H237 that implement campaign finance law changes are grossly negligent and remove safeguards that ensure the well-being and economic needs of North Carolinians are prioritized first, not the ultra-wealthy and outside special interest groups,” said Katelin Kaiser, Policy Director at Democracy North Carolina. “Once again, rather than doing the people’s work, a handful of lawmakers have radically changed the rules so individuals can funnel unlimited, untraceable contributions into North Carolina, opening up the floodgates to buying elections and politicians. Legislative leadership continues to raise concerns about the integrity of our elections and voter confidence, yet HB 237’s campaign finance proposal reveals the hypocrisy of these words. Lawmakers are not leveling the playing field.”

Cheryl Carter, Co-Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, described her experience navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as recovering from the disease, while living with asthma and chronic bronchitis, naming how the bill’s mask limitations will perpetuate stigmas and subjugation.

“With this bill, my mask makes me an immediate suspect —a law enforcement officer or anyone in public or private can demand that I remove it temporarily for identification purposes. Do they understand how scary that is for me as a Black Indigenous woman? This sets an extremely dangerous precedent,” Carter said. “This issue has become politicized. It shouldn’t be. This is about ableism, bodily autonomy, and how we choose to protect ourselves. I deserve to live in peace and to protect my health. The lawmakers once committed to protecting personal freedoms are now the same people who want to take mine and yours away.”


Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and advocacy to strengthen democratic structures, build power among disenfranchised communities, and inspire confidence in a transformed political process that works for all.