A bill attempting to criminalize protest has passed the Arizona Senate—supported entirely by Republicans, of course—and is headed to the state House. The bill claims to be aimed at “rioting,” but rioting is already illegal. This bill says that anyone who plans or attends a protest at which something the government chooses to define as rioting happens can be prosecuted:
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. [...]
There’s something else: By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events.
Picture it: You plan a peaceful protest, but then someone shows up and breaks a window or sets a trashcan on fire. And then you and all the other peaceful protesters are threatened with prosecution and asset seizure.
Democrats opposing the bill raised some damn good points—as Farley suggested, you think James O’Keefe or the like won’t be sending fake protesters to break windows to get their political opponents arrested? Sen. Andrea Dalessandro raised another crucial point: “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.” That’s pretty much a guarantee.
Republicans know they’re not just targeting violence, even if they won’t directly admit it. As Sen. Sylvia Allen, who represents Snowflake (really), said: “I have been heartsick with what’s been going on in our country, what young people are being encouraged to do.” What’s been going on is resistance to authoritarianism and bigotry. That should make you proud, not heartsick. Instead, you want to criminalize the very many for the actions of the very few.