Another Attack on the Right To Protest

Arizona Bill Seeks to Criminalize Demonstrations and Impose Draconian Punishment on Protesters

AZ 13-2903: “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 disturbs the public peace.”

In a 1932 case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandei, famously popularized the phrase, “laboratories of democracy”, referring to the states.  Arizona, which John Stewart called “The Meth Lab of Democracy” has spawned many Supreme Court decisions that have shaped legal history.  The state earned Stewart’s designation because it has passed so many unconstitutional laws and has challenged legislation and legal decisions in cases that have clawed their way to the top of the judiciary chain.

Phoenix, AZ SB1070 protest
Historic SB1070 protest in Phoenix on May 29, 2010

Among the cases are “Miranda v. Arizona” in 1966 (ruled criminal suspects have a right to not self-incriminate and the right to an attorney before questioning), the “Arizona v. United States” case in 2012 regarding SB107, an outrageous “papers please” anti-immigrant law,  “Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission”  in which the state tried to limit the power of the people to have a hand in redistricting, an uber-restrictive voter ID law, a law banning abortions, the list goes on.  A professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Paul Bender, has said Arizona has curious history of “having more importance in Supreme Court cases per capita when compared to similar states”.

Now if the Republican controlled clown college known as the Arizona State Legislature has it’s way, Arizonans may not only end up in jail for demonstrating but also may loose everything they own.  The state wants to label protests involving even minor property damage as riots and then label every single person present as a co-conspirator and hit them with the RICO statute.

RICO is an anti-racketeering law famously used by authorities to seize assets from people accused (accused, not convicted!) of certain crimes.  One of the aspects that makes RICO so despicable is that, in many cases, the property stolen goes directly to the cops, giving them great incentive to abuse the law.  See the article on Salon.com for a more detailed look at how this horrendous law could be used to limit free speech.