This Wednesday, the primarily Republican Arizona Senate voted on a bill that would permit law enforcement to seize the property of anyone present at a protest turned violent. The bill passed with a 17-13 majority, meaning protesting could now become a bit different in Arizona.
The Senate voted to add “rioting” to the state’s racketeering laws, which are usually aimed at things like organized crime and illegal business activities. However, everything included in the definition of rioting is already illegal. The Senators reasoning behind this appears to be that, if they passed this bill, they could stop protests from happening at all, or perhaps scare protesters into behaving. Since the police would now have the ability to arrest people for just planning protests if they believe the protest could potentially become violent. Even if they have no evidence that the protest is going to turn violent.
In America, we as citizens all have the right to protest. It’s clearly written in the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” We all have the right to freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble. So why are Arizona Republicans trying to take those rights away from us?
Democratic Senator Martin Quezada said that the bill “appears to be designed to chill First Amendment rights of people to decide to demonstrate in the first place for fear something could wrong.”
The Arizona Capitol Times reports that Republican Senator John Kavanagh asked fellow senators, “Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts? 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?”
Protest is not synonymous to riot. SB 1142 is an unconstitutional bill that, if it becomes law, would threaten our rights as American citizens and the rights given to us by the Constitution.