An ‘eye for an eye’: New Arizona law will hit violent protesters where it hurts

Arizona protesters beware — keep your demonstrations peaceful or be ready to pay dearly.

In response to claims that people are being paid to riot, the Arizona Senate approved a bill this week that expands the state’s racketeering statutes — directed at organized crime — to include rioting, and provides for asset forfeiture to pay for damages caused by rioting.

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Senate Bill 1142 also redefines rioting to include any actions that result in the damage to property belonging to others, according to Arizona Capitol Times.

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“When people want to express themselves as a group during a time of turmoil, during a time of controversy, during a time of high emotions, that’s exactly when people gather as a community,” Sen. Martin Quezada, a Democrat from Phoenix said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.”

But what has many worried about the legislation is its “guilt by association” aspect. The assets of everyone who took part in the demonstration can be seized to pay for damages — whether they contributed to the damage or not.

And of greater concern to to Tucson Democrat Sen. Steve Farley, the individual who actually destroyed the property may not even be connected to the demonstration.

Sen. John Kavanagh dismissed Quezada’s fear that SB1142 may have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly, claiming that it’s directed at a specific group of individuals.

“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,” the Fountain Hills Republican said.

“A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists,” Kavanagh continued. “But this stuff is all planned.”

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There’s another issue that worries some lawmakers: By including rioting within the legal definition of racketeering, law enforcement would have the ability to arrest event organizers during the planning state of demonstrations.

But that didn’t appear to concern Kavanagh during a recent debate.

“Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts?” Kavanagh, a former police officer, asked his colleagues on the Senate floor. “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?”

Recent events following President Donald Trump’s inauguration prompted Sen. Sylvia Allen to agree with Kavanagh.

“I have been heartsick with what’s been going on in our country, what young people are being encouraged to do,” the Snowflake Republican said.

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

“Fox &  Friends” reported on the bill calling it an “eye for an eye,” and plenty of others agreed with its intent.

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Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat, castigated Republicans and called the notion that demonstrators are being paid to riot as”fake news.”

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