Sunday, February 26, 2017

Arizona Republicans Want To Make The First Amendment Cost You, Big Time

Some Republican state lawmakers are trying to find ways to
stop mostly peaceful demonstrations like this one

Public outcry over a bad idea by lawmakers is always a good thing.

That bill that I describe below that could have led to racketeering charges and asset seizures for even the most innocent protest organizers is gone. 

Stick a fork in it.

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Menard said his office got manhy calls about the proposal and the conversation around it had become "toxic"

He will not be moving the bill forward, so it's dead.

Remember, folks, if something doesn't sound or look right, speak up! It worked here in Arizona.


There's been lots of protests around the nation lately, mostly by liberal groups and people opposed to Donald Trump, and by extension, Republicans who are propping him up.

That's cool. It's always refreshing to see people express their First Amendment rights to speak out.

Be assured, I'd say exactly the same thing had it been a bunch of conservative Republicans marching out in the streets.

One thing I don't like, and few people do, is when demonstrations turn violent and ugly. Usually, it's a peaceful protest, and then a few yahoos in the crowd smash windows or set fires or do something stupid.

Sometimes, it's an anarchist who generally agrees with what the protesters are saying, but want to take it further and cause trouble.

Other times, it's provocateurs who oppose what the protesters stand for and want to undermine their message.

Either way, that behavior is criminal, and I'm all for arresting people who do that type of thing.

However, Republican lawmakers in Arizona want to take this beyond criminally charging idiots who cause injury or damage.

They've introduced a bill that would allow the state to charge protest organizers with racketeering and seize their property if somebody turns violent during the demonstration. 

Never mind if the protest organizers intended a peaceful demonstration. Never mind if the organizers had no way to know that somebody would end up causing trouble. If one moron causes trouble, the protest organizer is in big trouble under this legislation.

You can see pretty plainly what the Arizona Republicans are trying to do here. Many Republicans are increasingly hostile to First Amendment rights and are really sick and tired of people going out into the streets to publicly criticize their policies.

So their trying to shut everybody up so they can do what they want, voters and constituent sbe damned.

This legislation would mean that everybody would be afraid to organize a demonstration. Or, if someone does organize a march, somebody who doesn't like the demonstrators' point of view would break a window or start a fire.

That way, the organizers woud be in hot financial water (or worse) and not organize future protests. And everybody who knows that the organizer who has his or her assets seized because of the actions of someone they had nothing to do with would never set up any new protests.

As Arizona Democratic State Senator Martin Quezada said, "This bill only serves to chill people's rights to free speech by allowing one bad actor to turn peaceful demonstration organizers into racketeering felons."

Why do so many Republicans hate democracy lately?

As Quezada points out, it's already illegal to start riots, break windows and set arson fires.

Sponsors of the bill say they want to stop riots before they start, and dragged out that Donald Trump trope that people are paid to demonstrate and cause trouble, so they want to stop those allegedly paid thugs.

Democrats point out that, besides the legislation probably being unconstitutional, it could backfire on the Republicans. 

Say a Tea Party group wants to hold a demonstration to cheer on something Trump or Republicans in Congress are doing. Great! Then some idiot, maybe a liberal activist, smashes some car windows during the Tea Party party.

Would these Republicans be willing to charge a fellow Republican with racketeering if that happened? I wonder.

Either Arizona Republicans can't think ahead to such circumstances, or they would only apply their proposed law to liberal demonstrations.

Which is it?

In any event, this crackdown of First Amendment rights is spreading among Republican controlled legislatures nationwide.

According to Alternet:

"In recent weeks and months, politicians in at least 11 states - Minnesota, Washington, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, Indiana, Virginia,  Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina and Arizona - have either introduced or threatened to introduce bills that make it more dangerous or costly to attend protests, or be anywhere near them."

The Arizona legislation, like some of the others, could hold people who merely peaceably participate in demonstrations to those racketeering charges and asset seizures.

Say you object to Trump's immigration policy and your city is holding a demonstration against that and you want to participate. Would you go if you knew if some moron caused even a tiny bit of trouble that you could have your life ruined?

This legislation is the stuff of dictatorships.

Let's hope everybody protests against this type of legislation, before they essentially become illegal.

No comments:

Post a Comment