The Republican majority Arizona Senate has passed a bill that fully buys into President Trump’s allegations that protests against his policies are all paid for by Democrats. The Republican majority in Arizona’s House passed the bill that makes planning or participating in a violent protest a criminal offense.
Whether the protest was planned as peaceful doesn’t matter. If someone starts a fight or engages in any kind of already decidedly criminal activity, everyone attending can be thrown in jail, prosecuted, and have their assets seized.
Previously just aimed at organized crime and racketeering, SB1142 now includes anyone who plans or participates in a protest turned violent. This includes planned protests before they even take place, which effectively shuts down any type of protests, peaceful or otherwise, from happening.
Protest organizers generally must file for a permit, putting the organizers in jeopardy of having their assets seized and being thrown in jail. All just for trying to organize an event where people can make use of their Constitutional right of free speech. This essentially takes away the rights off all Arizonans to their First Amendment rights.
State Democrats label this bill as guilty by association and completely unnecessary. Acts of rioting are already against the law, but this new law basically makes a riot out of any protest that goes bad.
While Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, agrees that there are laws against rioting, but that the new bill is focused against those who are paid to disrupt and incite people to riot. However, inciting a riot is already a crime. She said:
I have been heartsick with what’s been going on in our country, what young people are being encouraged to do.
Does she mean she’s heartsick because they are being encouraged to express their First Amendment rights?
State Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, summed up the fears of most people by saying:
…group[s] wanting to protest a property tax hike might get permits, publicize the event and have a peaceful demonstration, and one person, possibly from the other side, starts breaking the windows of a car. All of a sudden the organizers of that march … are going to be under indictment. That will have a chilling effect on anybody, right or left, who wants to protest something the government has done.
The House Senate passed the bill with a party-line vote of 17-13. The Arizona House of Representatives are yet to vote on the bill.
Featured image via By Marine 69-71 at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.