The Arizona State legislature has elected to kill a bill that would criminalize protests in a huge victory for democracy in America.
Senate Bill 1142 would expand the state’s racketeering laws to include “rioting” but crucially expands the definition to include anyone planning a protest or planning to attend a protest, allowing the police to arrest them and seize their assets.
“What’s worse is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side” says Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tuscon).
Democrats complained that everything associated with rioting is already a crime and that this was nothing but an underhanded attempt to criminalize peaceful protest.
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro had a greater worry on the matter: “I’m fearful that ‘riot’ is in the eyes of the beholder and that this bill will apply more strictly to minorities and people trying to have their voice heard.”
After a loud public outcry, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard quickly backtracked off the bill and tried to pretend it never existed.
“I haven’t studied the issue or the bill itself, but the simple reality is that it created a lot of consternation about what the bill was trying to do. People believed it was going to infringe on really fundamental rights. The best way to deal with that was to put it to bed.”
Mesnard and his cronies need to be held accountable on election day for their attempt at undermining a fundamental pillar of American democracy. For now, the lesson we all can take from this is protest does work.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.