Protests

Arizona Bill to Crack Down on Rioters Could Be Used to Shut Down Protests

Adding rioting to racketeering laws could lead to arrests of peaceful organizers, opponents fear.

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Protester
Edward Smith/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Rioting is illegal, even in Arizona, but some Republican senators there want to make it extra super illegal. And critics fear they're going to make it so illegal that it will result in people being charged with criminal conspiracy or racketeering (and risk having their property seized) just by participating in a protest where others might engage in violence.

Democratic senators expressed such worries in a piece posted at Arizona Capital Times. They fear that if SB 1142 is made law, it will be used to find new ways to crack down on peaceful protesters by creating pretenses to connect them to troublemakers. The Republicans defending the law are turning to the conspiracy that all the violence is planned and paid for by outsiders as justification:

By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events. And [Republican Sen. John] 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."

This seems a bit of a short-sighted approach, one Democratic legislator pointed out. The Republican senators are only perceiving the protesters as coming from the left and not considering the idea that this new crime classification could come back to haunt Tea Party type protesters if somebody decides to get violent at a protest. These senators also seem to be operating under the absurdly mistaken idea that violent agitators at protests are something brand new.

Not mentioned in the Times story, but pointed out by Will Gaona, policy director for the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, on Twitter: Law enforcement unions are supporters of the legislation and are no doubt helping push it along. It will certainly make it easier for police to justify practices where they simply shut down and detain protesters without much consideration over who is actually engaging in destructive behavior.

SB 1142 doesn't actually do a whole lot but simply add rioting to existing conspiracy and racketeering classifications and defines rioting thus: "A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which either disturbs the public peace or results in damage to the property of another person."

The bill passed on a party live vote in the Senate, 17-13 and is heading over to the House.

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  1. just by participating in a protest where others might engage in violence.

    It can’t hurt to know who you’re protesting with.

    1. You can’t always know who is in your vicinity whilst in public.

      1. I can. Jealous?

        1. Uh, I think you mean envious. And very.

  2. Yeah I saw this story earlier today.

    I suppose it isn’t surprising. It’s a natural consequence of the Trumpian Right’s idea that the their highest calling should be to “destroy the Left at all costs”. So why not use asset forfeiture and racketeering against Leftist protestors? The ends justify the means!

    Quite frankly a lot of these conspiracy-type laws are bullshit. But instead of opposing the bullshit conspiracy laws – which, not that long ago, were used against pro-life protestors – the Republicans would rather use them against THEIR enemies.

    Sad!

  3. These senators also seem to be operating under the absurdly mistaken idea that violent agitators at protesters is something brand new

    This is the real problem. No amount of laws are ever going to change human nature. It’s just too ridiculously easy to turn a protest into a riot. Mob mentality ain’t going away.

    1. I think these people pushing this idea in need of some refinement are not targeting protests that accidentally turn into violent by chance but those protests that are planned from the get-go to produce that violence. It might be hair splitting, but as of late there have been a lot of paid for people, thought how to vandalize and disrupt, doing their things, with several of those working to create these people caught and exposed. In the case of the premeditated violent protest you are talking about criminal activity.

  4. “The Republican senators are only perceiving the protesters as coming from the left and not considering the idea that this new crime classification could come back to haunt Tea Party type protesters if somebody decides to get violent at a protest.”

    I don’t recall the Tea Party blocked traffic and rioting. Please enlighten me Shackford with your wokeness

    1. That’s why he wrote “come back to haunt,” and “if.”

      1. And ‘if’ it happens they should be prosecuted. What purports to be ‘protests’ today are a far far far cry from what we once understood to be a ‘protest’. Assaulting people for attending events, blocking traffic, breaking store windows, etc. These are not tactics of a protest and if anything the police have been too lax and allowed this to happen.

        I’m all for making police accountable, but I’m not sure what country you’re living in where the police are cracking down on peaceful protests. I see police standing-by while violent and illegal actions occur.

        1. >I’m not sure what country you’re living in where the police are cracking down on peaceful protests

    2. Shackford thinks he’s using the Laconic if

      But, as you note, the Tea Party has never demonstrated any violence and certainly has not overtly planned for it as part of any event.

      Which is a major element – the “intent to promote or aid the commission” criteria – of this new proposed law An element Shakford doesn’t mention because it might tend to highlight the chicken littleness of his article.

      1. And let us also consider that this is not so much the addition of any new sort of restrictions on public behavior, more of a clarification and refinement of what is already acknowledged to be existing law.

      2. No, you’re wrong. The very point that Scott is making is that these new rules could, in the future, be used on non-violent protests.

        1. Agreed that more laws is probably not the answer. But, at the very least, the police should begin enforcing existing laws against the illegal actions that are masquerading as ‘protest’ now. Blocking traffic, assaulting people for attending an event, and breaking into stores (all incidences that occurred in Phoenix when Trump held a rally there during the primaries) is not protesting

          1. Sure, I’m with you. And I’d bet Scott is too judging by this post.

            1. You should be able to go after the organizers of real criminal conduct using existing criminal conspiracy statutes. There is no reason to make this racketeering.

              The whole point of the racketeering statutes is money. Before these statutes, the bosses of criminal organizations were virtually untouchable because they didn’t commit any crimes themselves. What they did was benefit from crimes committed by others. And they were very careful to never involve themselves directly in the commission of planning of crimes done on their behalf.

              What the racketeering laws did was make it a crime to benefit from someone else committing a crime. It doesn’t matter that you don’t personally run the brothel or the loan shark business when you take your cut from the money made from that, you are part of the racket and guilty.

              That logic doesn’t really apply to violent protests. They are ordinary criminal conspiracies and not what these laws were designed to address.

          2. Exactly.
            What’s the point of more laws if the police don’t enforce the existing laws regarding disorderly conduct?
            How about an asset forfeiture law aimed at any public safety officer who refuses to protect property or lives during a “demonstration”?

        2. Yes. The problem with making this a racketeering issue rather than a conspiracy one is that racketeering has punishments independent of the underlying crime. If the protest involves committing some act of civil disobedience like trespassing and being arrested for it, that is a conspiracy and could be charged as such. But the punishment would be that of trespassing. Under this statute the punishment for the conspiracy could be much greater than the punishment for the underlying crime. And that is a problem and creates the potential for misuse.

    3. As I understand the article, it’s saying that if *anyone* at a protest becomes or threatens to become violent, then everyone associated with planning or attending that event is also liable, regardless of whether or not that’s what they intended.

  5. All they really have to do is put away the Racketeer in Chief George Soros and 90% of the protests will go away, given that he’s the top puppet string puller and paymaster sitting at the top of the pyramid.

    1. SOROS!!!! What *can’t* he do?

  6. If you help organize and enable people to commit a crime, you are guilty of criminal conspiracy. And that is true whether the crime is extortion or rioting. There is nothing wrong with this law, except that it is unnecessary.Proper use of conspiracy charges already on the books will accomplish the same thing.

    1. Well, thank heavens we have John here to tell us how it’s totes libertarian to start treating freedom of association as criminal conspiracy, and how asset forfeiture is right and proper when used against people who had nothing to do with rioting.

      1. Apparently, you don’t understand what the word criminal means. Conspiracy is not ordinary association. It is a criminal association.

        Look, you are too stupid to understand the conversation. I would be happy to explain it to you but it is clear that is not possible. So, just shut the fuck up and go troll another thread.

        1. Yes John, just because the state defines something to be a crime, that automatically makes the action a criminal activity! We have no right to protest our loss of freedom of association rights when the state says so!

          Why don’t you tell us, John, why merely *discussing* the *possibility* of committing a crime should be a criminal act in and of itself. Whose rights have been violated? What harm has been caused?

          1. Yes, throwing rocks and attacking people is a crime. I don’t know what else to tell you. You are like talking to a brick wall.

            1. And if all I do is say “I plan to go downtown and throw rocks”, whose rights have I violated? what harm have I caused?

              1. If your rocks hit my property then you have harmed me. Of course, I would shoot your fucking stupid ass for vandalizing my property, but a lot of people are less inclined to do that sort of stuff.

      2. John says “If you help organize and enable people to commit a crime, you are guilty of criminal conspiracy. ”

        Chemjeff “Well, thank heavens we have John here to tell us how it’s totes libertarian to start treating freedom of association as criminal conspiracy, and how asset forfeiture is right and proper when used against people who had nothing to do with rioting.”

        Not sure if serious…as this is a strawman of what john was saying. note the organize and enable people to commit a crime part

    2. Under Arizona law, criminal conspiracy applies to felonies committed against somebody’s person, arson of an occupied building or burglary. Rioting that results in property rather than personal damage was not covered. Also, you have to know or reasonably be expected to know what you and your co-conspirators are going to do. This gets to the issue of violent rioters using “peaceful” protesters as camouflage and accomplices. The protesters being charged with conspiracy can’t just be people whose protest has been hijacked by Black Bloc.

      1. I think they would have been smarter to amend the rioting law to cover property damage. Ultimately, if you plan a riot, you are guilty of a criminal conspiracy and calling it a “protest” doesn’t change that.

        1. The law does modify the definition of rioting to include property damage. However, the Arizona definition of conspiracy does not include property crimes except for burglary and some arson. That is also being changed so that rioting that consists of property damage is included under the things that you can be convicted of conspiring to do. You can read the bill on azleg.gov

  7. http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/258109/

    Then we have this:

    we have done this a million fucking times before. We followed the formula that we have used in Europe and the US for years, ie, show up, fuck up fascist faces, break some random shit, watch right wing tears.

    But this time it was different and it’s your fucking fault. We didn’t get slaps on the wrist, we didn’t get lost in the crowd. We got fucking rounded up and arrested.

    Now some of us, like yours truly, got bailed out by our backers, but we have court dates and TEN FUCKING YEARS in jail. FOR HUNDREDS OF US THIS IS FUCKING INSANE.

    I will just leave that there.

    1. UPDATE: People in the comments are saying this is fake. But this isn’t: More than 200 Inauguration Day protesters indicted for rioting.

      It is indisputable that people were arrested at the protest. That doesn’t change the potential fakeness of the screen cap.

      1. I want to believe. But I can’t.

      2. It is the internet. Who knows if it is a real person. It does, however, reflect a truthful reality. These people were all rounded up and they are all facing ten years for felony rioting. In the past, they did walk away with slaps on the wrist or were allowed to blend into the crowd.

        Why they thought that would be the case at the Inauguration is a mystery. You really can’t overstate how stupid these people were and how pointless and self-destructive their actions have turned out to be.

        1. Who knows if it is a real person. It does, however, reflect a truthful reality.

          FAKE BUT ACCURATE

          1. If you are too stupid to read the basic facts in a news story and thus know that yes hundreds of people are facing felony rioting charges for what happened at the Inauguration, you are really too stupid to be commenting on the legal issues surrounding it.

            1. Dan Rather would be proud

              You don’t care if that post is true or not, but you’re gonna run with it anyway

          2. Considering the crap coming from these pants-shitting people these days, I wouldn’t at all be surprised this was totally legit. We do live in the unbelievable age of safe spaces and snowflakes.

    2. Judging by that cap, this is almost certainly from 4chan’s /pol/, making me believe that it very likely a right-wing anon have a laff and pretending to be a butthurt antifa. You are right in that people were arrested for this, but it’s questionable that they are crying about it on 4chan and we have no real way to know what they are really going to be charged with or if they’ll get easy-peasy plea deals.

  8. This would seem to affect enforcement mainly if there are funds earmarked for racketeering and conspiracy that could now be used to investigate protesters. I have no idea if that’s the case or not, and the article doesn’t say. But if so, it could explain why the union is behind it.

    1. If there is no underlying crime, there cannot be any racketeering. So this would not affect protesting, which is not a crime. It could, however, be applied to acts of civil disobedience, which are crimes. What this does is create the potential of civil disobedience, which now usually results in at most a misdemeanor charge becoming a felony.

      So Scott is strictly speaking wrong when he says this could affect protests.

      1. I’m sure you can at least entertain the possibility that people planning a peaceful protest might think twice if they knew that they could be charged with criminal conspiracy, if the event was hijacked by people who might not have such peaceful intent.

        1. I am sure it would. It does create a chilling effect. But at the same time, neither racketeering nor conspiracy is strict liability. To be guilty you have to know and promote the commission of a crime. So if you are organizing a protest and make it clear that it is a peaceful one and that you plan and expect everyone to abide by the law, the government is going to have a pretty hard time convicting you. They would have to prove you both had knowledge of and in some way benefited from and participated in the planning of a crime.

          It would make you think twice but I don’t think it would keep many people from not protesting. It would just make them very careful about what they said.

          1. It’s not obscene that event coordinators should think twice about what they signal to their attendees. I’m not so sure about the current crop of campus lefties because I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts a lot of them are perfectly happy seeing cars torched and windows busted out, but anyone else should make it adamant that if you see a fellow protester inciting violence, you and as many of your compatriots as it takes detain him and turn him over to police.

            1. The current crop of campus leftists is unbelievably stupid and arrogant. You don’t need racketeering laws to go after them. In both the cases in Berkeley and at the Inauguration, they got on TV and said in as many words “we are coming there to riot and commit crimes”. The local news in Washington had interviews with the protest organizers who said on camera “they object to the peaceful transfer of power”. The SF papers have the organizers of Berkeley both before and after saying their plan was to riot and assault people. The Project Veritas guy got the ones in Washington to say on camera how they planned to use violence.

              These people admitted in so many words to being involved in a criminal conspiracy. If the police would prosecute them, and in Washington they are, it is an open and shut case.

          2. It would make you think twice

            THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT, JOHN. To shut people up via government force. That was the point of using racketeering laws against pro-life protestors. To get them to shut up. Not really to stamp out corruption. I know you’re on board with using government force to shut down protestors if those protestors happen to be Leftist, but I would expect that libertarian-minded people would not be in favor of such tactics.

            1. It’s called Chilling effect you fucking moron. I made that point above and have said they would be better off going with regular conspiracy.

              You are the dumbest troll we have ever had on here. It is just epic how stupid you are.

              1. Of course it is a chilling effect. And you don’t mind chilling the leftist protestors.

        2. Look, there’s a reason “[t]he Republican senators are only perceiving the protesters as coming from the left and not considering the idea that this new crime classification could come back to haunt Tea Party type protesters if somebody decides to get violent at a protest.” And that’s because there’s no “hijacking” of protests going on; the ones that “turn” violent are the ones planned as covers for violence.

          Seriously, when’s the last time that organizers of a protest “hijacked” by the Black Bloc did any organizing to prevent it? Advance cooperation with the police, reporting people that they think are likely to be violent, telling attendees to have their cell phones ready to report crimes, maybe even getting private security to deter the Bloc? Hell, when’s the last time the organizers just clearly and unequivocally denounced such “hijacking”? Where are the “Women’s March” organizers loudly and unequivocally denouncing the attack on Richard Spencer, and telling the “it’s okay to punch a Nazi” people they’re wrong?

          There’s no “hijacking” going on, there’s just riot organizers trying to maintain plausible deniability that they’re deliberately organizing rioting.

          Racketeering law is, in my opinion,the wrong way to handle this. But as a legal tool designed specifically to pierce plausible deniability, it’s logical that people would consider using it.

      2. Oh bullshit, John.

        Suppose you are at a protest, not committing any crime, when the guy standing next to you hurls a rock through a business window. HE committed a crime, not you. But because you’re both at the same protest, then according to this bill, *both* of you are guilty of conspiring to commit this crime. So your mere presence at this protest winds up landing you in jail.

        1. That is not what the bill says. And that is not racketeering. Again, you are too stupid to understand the issues involved here. So please stop trying.

          For those reading this who can understand the issues, in order for the racketeering laws to apply, there has to be planned criminal activity. You are not guilty of racketeering if you plan a peaceful and lawful event and some nut shows up and starts throwing rocks. Racketeering is just an expanded form of conspiracy law. It does not eliminate the need for there to be some underlying criminal conduct and conspiracy.

          1. Yes, the rock-throwing guy planned to show up and throw rocks. And here you are in the middle of it. Not every protest is centrally planned you know. Perhaps you and rock-guy both responded to a social media posting to show up at a certain time to protest some outrageous action. The social media post didn’t say “don’t throw rocks” specifically. Maybe that guy is responsible for conspiring to destroy property by not explicitly saying “don’t throw rocks”.

            Conspiracy law is, in the main, bullshit. It is guilt by association.

            1. You have to have knowledge he was doing that and in some way enable him. If you don’t know, you are not guilty. If you do know and call the cops before he does, he is guilty but not you.

              So for the third time, no you can’t be convicted because someone showed up and started throwing rocks.

              1. So what if I had knowledge that he was going to throw rocks? Why should that be a crime?

              2. Maybe you won’t be convicted, if you’re lucky enough to have a decent lawyer and a prosecutor who doesn’t threaten you with being locked up until you’re old and grey if you don’t plea bargain down to a lesser offense, regardless of your actual innocence.

                Meanwhile, your savings are gone, you’ve lost your job, you have a felony arrest on your record, and even if you don’t get convicted half the people think you probably did it simply because you got arrested.

                But hey, no worry. None of that’s important. You can’t get convicted. Maybe.

          2. Ever been to a protest?
            If you are in a four block radius, you are a rioter when the rocks begin to fly. And if say, “well, OK then, I’ll just leave”, you add flight to avoid and resisting arrest. You planned the criminal activity when you showed up. That is the way it works.
            One part of the sixties I remember was a group of protesters taking over a university class building. Not wanting to get accused of various property crimes, they padlocked all of the professors offices to avoid vandalism charges. That resulted in charges of damaging public property, because the padlocks were not state approved. (It was a state college) Expecting utility cut offs, they brought water, food, and camp stoves, with the fuel in approved safety fuel containers. Expecting tear gas, they brought bandannas and vinegar. (that brought charges of possession of explosive materials and conspiracy to destroy public property. The prosecutor’s theory was they would pour out the vinegar, put the stove fuel into the bottles and use the bandannas as wicks for molotov cocktails). So everything they thought they were doing to reduce damage, violence and excessive charges only brought more charges, and moved most of them from misdemeanors to felonies. What they forgot was they were in Virginia, not California. The state police had them out of the building and into jail in two hours.
            This proposed madness will be more of the same.

            1. Wow, people deliberately engaged in preplanned criminal activity and the prosecutor threw every charge he could manage against them? I am so, so outraged.

  9. “The Republican senators are only perceiving the protesters as coming from the left and not considering the idea that this new crime classification could come back to haunt Tea Party type protesters if somebody decides to get violent at a protest.”

    Honestly, that’s probably a safe risk for Republicans to take, those guys were almost too benign. It is easy to imagine that infiltrators will come in and make it violent so the entire thing is shut down though.

  10. It’s a good thing that most Arizona sports teams stink, because one thing that frequently follows winning a championship is the fan riot. Adopt this statute, and it’s entirely possible to imagine a forfeiture proceeding against, say, the Arizona Cardinals to pay for any damage caused by overexcited fans. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s possible under the law, which is why it’s a very bad law.

    1. Who would want to riot in that heat?

      1. Do it a night, like they do here in Texas. Nights are actually rather cold in the desert, so wearing masks and hoodies would be pleasant.

    2. It would only apply if the team said “come down and help up celebrate by burning a few cars and beating some people up”.

      1. It’s not that difficult to make “come party with US!!” Into exactly that kind of invitation, especially if the fans are, say, Hispanic and the event is in Maricopa County. Also, fighting the prosecution is going to be bleeding expensive and time-consuming, so any team short of the Arizona Cardinals or Phoenix Suns is unlikely to want to do it. They’ll just pay. That’s what makes these laws so dangerous. (This coverage is also why I came back to H & R. I haven’t seen this anywhere else.)

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

    Let’s see…

    Option A – Deter them with the threat of death

    Option B – Just don’t give them a reason to protest in the first place

  12. It’s an interesting law, of the kind that would make for a fun SF short story. But stick to principles, come back to showing the harm and allowing only victims to prosecute, and it disappears along with most other coercive government power fantasies.

  13. I’m surprised no one else has noted this:

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

    It’s not even in the ALT text! Scoot, yee done let us down!

    1. You can’t make this stuff up. I thought the town association was a clever fabrication, but from Wikipedia:

      Snowflake is a town in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. It was founded in 1878 by Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, Mormon pioneers and colonizers. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.

  14. “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?”

    Yes, yes we would.

    However – and I’m just spitballing here, throwing ideas out – *maybe* we should look at what these people might be rioting over and if its about, say, government malfeasance, we consider fixing *that* rather than imposing tyrrany?

    I mean, its a lot less cost and effort overall to be a good government than to be a shitty one that shoots people when they complain.

    1. What if they’re rioting because they want a tyranny? They’re clearly comfortable with political violence, so they’re halfway there.

  15. I don’t think this is a great idea, but I have to say I understand the impulse. ‘Protesters’ have gotten a hell of a lot of undeserved leeway for far too long. Not coincidently, the vast majority of ‘protests’ have been in aid of Progressive causes.

    With surveillance cameras and cell-phone cameras everywhere, it shouldn’t be impossible to go through the video of a ‘protest’ and pass out fines for littering in job lots, fines for un-permitted fires as necessary, and arrests for assault wherever some nitwit has thrown pretty much anything.

    The First Amendment protects the right “peaceably to assemble”. It does not protect a right to thrown excrement, pies, blood, red paint, or anything else noxious.

    The Left needs to be schooled on what is acceptable behavior at a protest. The Right, for the most part, seems already to know.

    1. Tangent;

      I think the biggest example of this crap I can think of is the way firebug protesters get a bye. Use fire as a ‘symbol’ and suddenly, the whole concept of ‘reckless endangerment’ or ‘creating an attractive nuisance’ goes out the window. Part of this idiocy is the way the narrative on the Kent State killings somehow fails to mention that the night before the Guard was called in the ‘protesters’ had set fire to the ROTC building and then interfered with firefighters on the scene. That kind of stupidity is potentially lethal. Combined with the (also seldom mentioned) one million 1970’s dollars that had been done to the town, that fire made clear that the ‘protest’ had to be shut down ASAP, before a lot of people ended up dead. That only four imbeciles died is almost unbelievable good luck.

  16. I’m calling it now. RICO and asset forfeiture will be used as a political bludgeon to quash dissent. And if it take more than one person to plan your little protest, well that my friend is conspiracy.

    We are quickly running out of Douglass Boxes.

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