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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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328 comments

  1. Attacking the constitution? Sounds like some people are scared of the people. As well they should be!!! Rise up America. Rise up Women. Rise Up Men, Rise up EVERY FREEDOM LOVING AMERICAN! Secure your RIGHTS!!!! Don’t be afraid be brave! YOU HAVE THE CONSTITUTION AT YOUR BACK! We are STILL a Nation of LAWS!

  2. A better idea is to have any violent or destructive crime during a protest a felony. Also a misdemeanor to incite such crimes.

  3. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    — Joseph Goebbels

  4. TRUMP= COMMUNISM… IM SICK TO DEATH OF THIS. WILL THIS MAN EVER STOP ATTACKING THE PEOPLE OF THE US? KARMA CANT COME SOON ENOUGH. WHAT DO WE DO. HE HAS CRONIES AND PUPPETS. IS HE THE ANTICHRIST? SO MANY ARE BRAINWASHED!

  5. Oh man, these state senators are just bald-faced liars. This is a grass roots movement, American democracy at its best. Unlike the Koch Bros-sponsored astro turfing of the “tea party,” this is the people rising up and expressing their anger at incompetent and out of touch political hacks in an unrepresentative Congress.

    Shame on these clowns for making this stupid and nonsensical charges. Then again, in the Age of Trump, facts don’t seem to matter to some folks.

  6. This is a brilliant way to solve Trump’s conflict of interest problem. At some Trump rally, if a drunk hits another drunk that would be “violent” and we could begin seizing Trump properties.

  7. My thought too, Carla J. Olheiser. They need to go after these foundations paying these activists, who then spread fake propaganda starting the unrest in our communities, which is causing all the rioting across the USA.

  8. Have we strayed so far from our duty as Americans that we believe it’s just to punish people for protesting? In this vein all blacks who protested for equal rights would have had property seized. This is being done to shut people up. Agree with protesters or disagree, one day you will want to protest. And you will have silenced your own voice.

  9. Obviously, it’s time to Boycott Arizona every way possible.

  10. None of the people who marched with me on January 21st.and there were hundreds of us. We’re paid. We are all concerned tax paying citizens who love what this country is about and don’t want to see it taken away by a bunch of fascists who do not understand our constitution and liberties. The American people have to start using their intellect and seeing the fake dangerous **** that is being feed to it by the alt right. This. law in Arizona is arcane . There was a time when vassals had to suck up and pay up to the king or lose their property and benefits. Well guess what there was a revolution and we got rid of the King!! Somebody tell trump that since he doesn’t seem to have read the history (or any other type) of book. WE ARE NOT PAID. WE ARE HEART SICK AND DEFENDING THE RIGHTS OF ALL AMERICA. WE WILL NOT LOOSE OUR COUNTRY OR ARE FREEDOM.

  11. The party of “individual responsibility,” indeed!

  12. I believe this borders on unconstitutional, and represses free speech! I agree if it turns violent in anyway, those acting out should be arrested and tried, but this blanket idea is just wrong!!!

  13. WOW, glad I don’t live in Arizona !!!

  14. Congratulations, Arizona! You are now acting as a totalitarian state! It hasn’t taken long has it for this to happen? Within the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. God’s blessings are certainly being taken away as are our constitutional rights. What is wrong with you Arizona Legislature? Don’t you have a clue as to what really makes this country great? Apparently not!

  15. “Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the new criminal laws are necessary.” R-Snowflake? Ironic.

  16. The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

  17. Where were you people when Obama mandated we all buy health insurance, a sure violation of the constitution only upheld by partisan hacks in the (lol) Supreme Court. The “not a tax,” that became a tax.

  18. I am astounded that lawmakers in my state even fix their mouths to speak of this BS. This is a frightening sneak peak into things to come for this country. Slowly but surely our Constitutional rights are being stipulated, and diminished until they will no longer exist.. welcome to Nazi Germany? It’s frightening and disgusting … Wth is going on?

  19. The Arizona legislature will probably be sending paid troublemakers to ensure there is trouble and damage. This is what the CIA did in Iran to scare the shah back to Iran from Paris and have the Iranian prime minister arrested and jailed for life (read history). It’s what America has come to – sad!

  20. There is no need for a law like this. It clearly is intended to weaken First Amendment rights. There are already laws against disorderly conduct and destruction of property. Those are sufficient for these purposes. The claim that people are being hired to protest is false anyway. There are far too many of us protesting to try to explain it all away like that. Obviously there is something seriously wrong in our country that is threatening democracy and upsetting the majority, many of whom have never protested before, and some of us who have not protested since the 60s. Address what is destroying and threatening that, not those who are protesting to call attention to it. Start with the stolen election. If over 60 million people had really voted for Trump, his approval rating would be much, much higher, and there would simply not be this number of people this upset.

  21. THIS IS WHAT FASCISM LOOKS LIKE. The 1st Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It does not require that citizens be clairvoyant, or responsible for the actions of others. I am 100% certain that if this ridiculous and fascist law is passed, it will be immediately challenged by the ACLU or others. However, it is important that AZ citizens take actions now to ensure that valuable taxpayer dollars are not wasted in attempting to get this clearly unconstitutional law passed, or in the legal fight that will ensue in vain afterwards. It’s also important that Arizonans speak out against this kind of action on the part of their state representatives. REMEMBER THIS: The 1st Amendment is just as important as the 2nd Amendment.

  22. You can solve the problem very quickly. Impeach Trump and the Pence. Then have a REAL Presidential election without any Russian interference. We’ll be on sound ground again just like the Obama years.

  23. Why can’t some of you people read? Protesting is one thing…burning, looting and destroying private property is another…THAT is what the law wIill protect…duh.

  24. Obviously this is yet another disturbing draconian move perpetrated by the socially retarded / crack smoking Republican party of the Arizona Senate. Make no mistake about it, Whenever unconstitutional laws of this magnitude are quickly rushed through and are being imposed upon the citizenry without their expressed input or debate; then you should recognize it for what it really is.

    YOU ARE NO LONGER LIVING IN A DEMOCRACY
    BUT A FASCIST TOTALITARIAN STATE!!

    Obviously these so-called “Meth-Smoking-Quasi-Anti-American-Thugs” (The Republicans), have elected to impose their “Evil Sith Lord” powers to try and nullify our basic constitutional rights as free American citizens to peaceable assemble, protest and redress our government. What these “IDIOTS” (and those who choose to ride on the yellow special ed bus who agree with such draconian measures) fail to realize is, without such constitutional guarantees, this would be nothing more than a dictatorship/ plutocracy. “Oops, I forgot we’re already there!”

    DON’T BE FOOLED BY IDIOTIC SHENANIGANS OR CHEAP PARLOR TRICKS DISGUISED BY THOSE IN POWER TO TRY AND TAKE AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH, REDRESS YOUR GOVERNMENT, OR SUBVERT YOUR “FREEDOM” for “SECURITY!!” REMEMBER… ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY!

    For those of you who clearly see this as a classic
    move right out of Orwell’s 1984 playbook, you’re absolutely correct. For those of you mindless automatons still refusing to see it for what it actually is…. You too will be in for a rude awakening.

    (SMH)

  25. Just as laws protect the innocent even though the guilty may benefit, our right to protest is paramount to American ideals of freedom. The notion that people have been paid to protest does not give a reason to take away the rights of the people to protest. People in government are paid all the time to sway opinion. They are called lobbyists and they get paid to do just that. The ridiculous notion that protestors can be held accountable and their property might be seized is too much like Nazi Germany. Didn’t we fight against such government intervention to civil rights and basic human rights? Is this the direction that Americans want to take? This is not making America great again, it is making America a mockery of democracy.

  26. The problem of lack of education will continue to plague us. Without education we are a third world country. We pay our teachers a nomimal salary, we make our students yearning for education pay outrageous fees to get an education, and student loans are unforgiving. We cannot cry about losing jobs to other markets when we do not educate and prepare our own people to compete on the global market. We should not placate those markets like coal, we should prepare people for future markets that are environmentally sound and have the chance to prosper in the future without killing our planet.

  27. Wow has the AZ legislature lost their minds, property seizure for going to a rally or demonstrating? Police need to arrest lawbreakers, not others who are acting peacefully. Guess I won’t buy that winter home now, too many crazy authoritarian types in AZ.

  28. These laws are about one thing and one thing only; removal of voting rights. They want to turn protesting into a felony under RICO thus stripping protesters of their right to vote.

    Truly disgusting display of unconstitutional, authoritarian law.

  29. “Anarchists”? “Undercover agents”? Can you not see what is going on here?

  30. And….so goes the United States….Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers would be “rolling in their graves” if they saw this Arizona Legislature disgraceful act…..

  31. Oh, you mean like TRUMP did during all those rallies? Offering to give money to people because those people commit crimes? That kind of organizer of paid, professional protesters?

    It would, however, have been good to have this so we could nail the entire Klan of BUNDY crazies.

  32. My God, these right-wing legislators, for all their flag-waving patriotism, do NOT believe in upholding peoples’ Constitutional rights. Isn’t that a violation of their oath of office? Impeach them and remove them from office. If they protest, jail them preemptively under their own bogus law…and then seize THEIR property!

  33. Leaving comments to articles like this is great! And I commend you for it. But if you want to make a difference I invite you to write an email or letter to our Governor, Doug Ducey expressing your opinion, pro or con, and also to your members of congress. The can be emailed at:
    //azgovernor.gov/engage/form/contact-governor-ducey or engage@az.gov

    Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
    State Capitol
    West Wing
    1700 W. Washington, 9th Fl.
    Phoenix, AZ 85007
    Fax:(602)542-1381
    Tel:(602)542-4331 11/98
    email: azgov@azgov.com
    web: //www.governor.state.az.us

  34. I have to reiterate the importance of the above quote

    “It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

    Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s Nazi Party)

    We need to be aware of what is unfolding in our country … and so very unfortunately in our own beautiful Arizona.

  35. Another fine example of injustice in the name of law and order and a true reflection of what our government is. It is broken and needs to be completely rebuilt from the ground up…

  36. There is no chance that this law will withstand even a barely competent appeal or review. And the Legislators–if they had high school civics–must know this; meaning this law and their votes for it were sheer grandstanding. And worse, they were hoping it had a chilling effect on anti-Trump protesters.
    I have confidence in the American people, but it is with acts like this, one step at a time, that democracies die.

  37. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea should really consider relocating to Russia and live under Putin, rather than continue to try to replicate his oppressive unAmerican policies here. Our country was literally founded on the principle of protest or do the Tea Party Republicans forget how they got their namesake? Republicans if you keep throwing gasoline around you are eventually going to burn your own house down. As long as we have an independent uninfected judiciary this sort of legislation will never stand up to judicial review. As for people being paid to protest, yes that is somewhat true. You see there is this egomaniacal billionaire “man of the people” who is trying to reshape our country in his image and the payment the protestors get is freedom–a free republic.

  38. The law needs to be specific in that if their is a plan to cause a riot witnessed and tesstified to by undercover officers then the planners can be arrested not if a peacefully planned protest turns violent. If that happens then only the perpetrators of this violence can be arrested and charged. The peacefully assemble cluse should not and cannot cover those who plan a violent assembly, but it does cover peaceful assemblies that happen to turn violent. The burden of proof is on law enforcement not the people.

  39. Sorry for the spelling errors.

  40. This a proposed law to intimidate persons participating in constitutionally protected protests. How can a people obsessed with protecting the second amendment be so careless with the protections of the first? Those who would support such a measure as the one described act out of real or feigned fear. They either don’t have the courage, or lack the honesty, that true American patriots such as the founding fathers expected of us. The accusations that protestors are paid, if not totally untrue, are at the most Trumped-up charges (capital “T” intentional). In any event, no Constitution-loving American would ever wish to intimidate another citizen to the point of violating their constitutional rights for any reason, even if it means enduring civil protests (which we agree should be conducted within the framework of law). The founding fathers knew that it is fearfulness that always opens the door to oppression—human history was already blighted with numerous examples by the time of the American Revolution. The signers of the Constitution rejected fear and created our great democracy. The current administration knows the power of fear as well, which is why they support attempts to undermine your constitutional guarantees and mine, by using fear to fan the flames of hatred. Supporters of this bill may be old enough and rich enough to anticipate leaving this world without suffering the consequences such blindly self-serving actions at this will make “legal.” But they should remember that their children and grandchildren, and those whom they grow to love in adulthood, will as inevitably be victims of a legacy of blind hatred unabated as will be mine. Do we all really want that?

  41. Where can i get a job as a professional protester? I’m going to turn 74 in a few months and I need yet another profession to fill out my days. If anyone knows ANY group that is accepting applications, please post, I’ll send them my card, “Have sign on stick, will travel,”

  42. “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?’’

    Wouldn’t you rather stop a mass shooting before it starts? Do you really want to wait until kindergarteners are gunned down in their classrooms, employees are cowering under their desks, and people are hiding in bathrooms at a club waiting for the inevitable? Let’s seize some guns then too, officer.

  43. “tired of these Dem funded professional protestors unjustifiably defaming President Trump.” Me too!! After all, he’s doing that just fine all by himself!!

  44. Article II, Section 5 of the Arizona State Constitution reads as follows:

    “Section 5. Right of petition and of assembly — The right of petition, and of the people peaceably to assemble for the common good, shall never be abridged.”

    In my opinion, this proposed law violates the state constitution. I only have a law degree, though.

  45. As long as asserting one’s right under the 1st Amendment places one’s assets at risk the gov’t is incentivized to make arrests for the sake of increasing state revenue. Entrapment will become the norm to support the paramilitary police which further means that the state will be instigating bad behavior; hiring professional rioters to reinforce its original “fake news” justification for their PROTECTIONS. The old legislative-hate-money self-fulfilling prophecy thing!

  46. Those with unpopular political ideas have always borne the brunt of government repression. Free speech rights still need constant, vigilant protection.

    According to this law if one organiztion had permits and all was legal as the opposition organiztion who would purposely destroy property knowing that the peaceful protest organiztion would go bankrupt with property forfeiture.

    So I stand outside with a sign. Another person doesn’t like what my sign says and breaks a window. All that I own is taken away from me. Now I have nothing to lose and will stand with that same sign again. Now what are you going to take away from me – my freedom? Put me in jail because I was “blocking the sidewalk” with a “dangerous weapon” of cardboard with “sharp edges”???

  47. To those who believe that the “lawmakers” who propose this are fools – they are not. They are deliberately setting up the conditions under which Americans wishing to exercise their 1st amendment rights become so terrorized by the possibility of losing everything, that they choose to shut up. It’s quite effective – been used by tin pot dictators all over the globe to silence dissent and further oppress their populations and still say, “See? All of my loyal subjects agree with me.” Welcome to the banana republic of Trumpistan.

  48. Angry & confused, you need to read the law. Nowhere does it say simply planning a demonstration where violence breaks out can be charged as a crime. Even if violence is from some interloper unrelated to the planner, the government would have to prove they “acted together” with the planners.

    Following your logic, you’d have to agree that under EXISTING law the planner of a protest could be charged with any of the following that happened to occur during a protest:

    (i) Homicide.
    (ii) Robbery.
    (iii) Kidnapping.
    (iv) Forgery.
    (v) Theft.
    (vi) Bribery.
    (vii) Gambling.
    (viii) Usury.
    (ix) Extortion.

    ALL this law does is add “Riot”, including “reckless property damage”, to the above list.

  49. jeeaston, read the law. It doesn’t place your assets at risk for exercising your First Amendment rights. Nowhere does it say simply planning a demonstration where violence breaks out can be charged as a crime. Even if violence is from some interloper unrelated to the planner, the government would have to prove they “acted together” with the planners.

    Following your logic, you’d have to agree that under EXISTING law the planner of a protest could be charged with any of the following that happened to occur during a protest:

    (i) Homicide.
    (ii) Robbery.
    (iii) Kidnapping.
    (iv) Forgery.
    (v) Theft.
    (vi) Bribery.
    (vii) Gambling.
    (viii) Usury.
    (ix) Extortion.

    ALL this law does is add “Riot”, including “reckless property damage”, to the above list.

  50. OK, barrister Burns, have you actually read the law? Nowhere does it say simply planning a demonstration where violence breaks out can be charged as a crime. Even if violence is from some interloper unrelated to the planner, the government would have to prove they “acted together” with the planners.

    If the new law is unconstitutional, you’d have to admit that the old law was as well (and it’s been time-tested, so that seems unlikely). Because under EXISTING law the planner of a protest could be charged with any of the following that happened to occur during a protest:

    (i) Homicide.
    (ii) Robbery.
    (iii) Kidnapping.
    (iv) Forgery.
    (v) Theft.
    (vi) Bribery.
    (vii) Gambling.
    (viii) Usury.
    (ix) Extortion.

    ALL this law does is add “Riot”, including “reckless property damage”, to the above list.

    Perhaps you can get a refund for that law degree! 🙂

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