Since Donald Trump’s inauguration there has been much to protest, and Republicans are working as hard as they can to make that protesting illegal.
Arizona has added to the growing list of state laws that attempt to squash First Amendment rights, according to the Arizona Capitol Times. On Wednesday, the Arizona Senate voted 17-13 to send SB 1142 to the House, a bill that expands the state’s racketeering laws beyond organized crime to include rioting. Rioting was also expanded, to refer to any damage to property. The bill gives the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of anybody at a protest where, for example, a window gets smashed.
Inciting a riot is already a crime, but if you are a peaceful protestor who is at a demonstration where one person decides to get violent, you could be held accountable for their actions under the proposed bill. As Democratic Sen. Steve Farley pointed out to the Times, there’s no way to know that someone who sets a trash can on fire is necessarily there on behalf of an organized protest, and this can cut both ways:
For example, he said, a “Tea Party” group 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,” Farley said.
“And all of a sudden the organizers of that march, the local Tea Party, are going to be under indictment from the county attorney in the county that raised those property taxes,’’ he said. “That will have a chilling effect on anybody, right or left, who wants to protest something the government has done.’’
Still, it’s suspect that the bill would be used to target Tea Party members. As Democratic Sen. Andrea Dalessandro said during the debate, “I’m fearful that ‘riot’ is in the eyes of the beholder and that this bill will apply more strictly to minorities and people trying to have their voice heard.”