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Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent

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(UPDATE: Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said his chamber will not consider SB1142, meaning the bill is effectively dead.)

Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened.

SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others.

But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what’s worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, acknowledged that sometimes what’s planned as a peaceful demonstration can go south.

“When people want to express themselves as a group during a time of turmoil, during a time of controversy, during a time of high emotions, that’s exactly when people gather as a community,’’ he said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.’’

Quezada said, though, that everything that constitutes rioting already is a crime, ranging from assault to criminal damage, and those responsible can be individually prosecuted. He said the purpose of this bill appears to be designed to chill the First Amendment rights of people to decide to demonstrate in the first place for fear something could wrong.

But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters.

“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,’’ he said.

“A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists,’’ Kavanagh continued. “But this stuff is all planned.’’

There’s something else: By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events. And Kavanagh, a former police officer, said if there are organized groups, “I should certainly hope that our law enforcement people have some undercover people there.’’

“Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts?’’ Kavanagh asked colleagues during debate. “Do you really want to wait until people are injuring each other, throwing Molotov cocktails, picking up barricades and smashing them through businesses in downtown Phoenix?’’

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the new criminal laws are necessary.

“I have been heartsick with what’s been going on in our country, what young people are being encouraged to do,’’ she said.

She agreed with Quezada that there already are laws that cover overt acts. But Allen said they don’t work.

“If they get thrown in jail, somebody pays to get them out,’’ she said. “There has to be something to deter them from that.’’

Farley, however, said the legislation does far more than simply going after those who might incite people to riot, something which actually already is a crime. And he warned Republicans that such a broad law could end up being used against some of their allies.

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.’’

Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said the whole legislation is based on a false premise of how disturbances happen.

“This idea that people are being paid to come out and do that?’’ she said. “I’m sorry, but I think that is fake news.’’

Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, had her own concerns.

“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,’’ she said.

The 17-13 party-line vote sends the bill to the House.

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324 comments

  1. Try the REAL Headline..Arizona cracks down on terrorist violence.. If you are violent, or block my way to work, you a f-ing TERRORIST..not a protester..

  2. And the Trump regime begins.

  3. If we let Arizona Senate Bill SB1142 pass, we deserve to live in the TOTALITARIAN STATE this is all leading up to!

    The idea of hordes of “paid for” professional agitators and troublemakers that we need to protect ourselves against is totally ridiculous … just like the 3 million illegal votes that were ALL cast for Hillary in the last election, and all the “fake news” which is anything and everything that is critical of Trump. Yes, group-think “newspeak” is very much alive and well in post-truth America. For this reason, NOW is the time for all of us to stand up and aggressively defend our 1st amendment right to unfettered FREE Speech (one of the core founding principals of our democracy)! So if you really care about our country and keeping America FREE, please forward this article on to everyone you know and ask them to call or email their AZ State Representatives (2) and Senators (1) and tell them to vote “NO” on SB1142 or suffer the consequences of NOT getting re-elected in the next election cycle.

    If you don’t know who your AZ state senator and representatives are, you should first go to http://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/to find out what Legislative District you’re in, then look up your state senator and representatives and call and/or email them TODAY to tell them EXACTLY how you feel!!

  4. It now looks like not only did Russia hack the elections, but it also looks like they infiltrated Arizona disguised as democratically elected politicians. Sorry folks, but Arizona now seems to be within the sphere of Russian control.

    What is very clear is that those politicians who are supporting this attack against First Amendment Rights, which include; peaceful assembly and free speech, are not individuals who hold true American democratic values. What is also clear, is that the only purpose of this law is to silence the opposition, so that only one voice will be heard.

    Come on Arizona, do you mean to tell us that you don’t already have laws on the books that deal such crimes as rioting and property damage? Maybe it is time that Arizona get rid of the Politburo and elect members democrat state House and Senate.

  5. I used my Soros money to go to Disneyland… On my unicorn…

  6. I agree completely with “Concerned Citizen’s” comments above.

    We have 1st amendment rights to protest. The Women’s March (es) all across the U.S. were peaceful. They scared the establishment because of the sheer numbers who showed up to attempt to make their feelings & priorities known.

    So, now, our country is truly moving toward a Putin-like dictatorship. Unfortunately, the majority of our elected officials are in “lock step” (notably Republicans). Is this what people really wanted when they voted for #45? I don’t think that the majority of those who voted for him wanted our country to become “Russia #2.” Shame on you, Arizona Republicans.

  7. First of all, let me make myself clear that I stand against violent rioting. This plan, however, isn’t only about cracking down on that, if one plays attention to their proposal. To understand , we have to back up a little. Logic 101: while not all protests are riots, some rioters/provocateurs go to protests. One cannot equivocate all protest planners, protestors, and protests with rioters, rioting, or riots whether or not any violence or property damage occurred. To base asset forfeiture on this morass of bad logic, and possibly a lack of an actual crime being committed in some or many cases, will prove to be rightfully litigious and therefore expensive to both affected individuals and the state. To recap, so far the plan seems to be to “play pre-cog police” while conflating all protest planning and protests with rioting and organized violence because violence could take place — whether it does or doesn’t. It seems they plan to do this without differentiating who was or wasn’t involved in any violence or other damages. So I don’t propose violence and proprty damage shouldn’t be tolerated but this isn’t the answer.

  8. Correction: the last sentence of my comment, which is awaiting moderation, should read, “So I don’t propose violence and proprty damage should be tolerated but this isn’t the answer.”

  9. Excellent. The left needs to be held accountable and their property seized. We will no longer tolerate their fascism.

  10. If California a nanny state, Arizona is becoming a Mommie Dearest state. Scary.

  11. If people were being paid to riot, and that was the actual reason for this legislation, perhaps there would be some merit to it. But it looks a lot more like an attempt to stifle dissent seeing as how the only people who truly believe people are being paid $1500 a week to protest and riot are those who depend upon Infowars or Breitbart for information instead of news sources. And it is ironic in the extreme that people will support this because they support Trump, mainly because, should legislation like this gain a foothold, when something you don’t support comes along, your right to protest will be gone.

    It is sometimes enlightening to think things like this all the way through.

  12. Yet another reason I’m not planning to visit, drive through, or move to Arizona.

  13. You are seriously equating inconveniencing you on your way to work with people getting shot/blown up/beheaded?

    Yeah, you’re a Conservative snowflake…or should that just be flake?

    Protest is a Constitutionally-protected RIGHT.

    Maybe the Boston Tea Partiers should have just left that tea on the ships?

  14. Seriously, Arizona needs to start over as a state. They have gone so far away from what is American they may as well open their own fascist country. So much for your tourism, hope you like the economic impact of this insanity.

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