Protest

The AZ Senate Wants to Make you an Outlaw

Updated Feb. 28, 2017: This bill was killed. Details here!

For months we’ve all been watching our national nightmare develop like a typical TV show “will they or won’t they” storyline: will our government tip over into a full-blown fascist state or won’t it. And just as importantly, will Arizona be complicit in such a government. Yesterday it seems they crossed a very important line. In a 17-13 party line vote, the Arizona Senate passed SB1142, an anti-racketeering bill ostensibly aimed at curbing rioting.

But as the Arizona Capitol Times explains:

“…the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association — and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated….By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events.”
Let that sink in for a moment. If something happens at the next Women’s March, at a protest outside your representative’s office, if you participate in a silent march against the Muslim ban and anything at all happens – a car gets its window busted, somebody somewhere in the vicinity gets punched – you could be held legally responsible if you communicated with others online to meet at the event. That means you could lose your home, your car, anything of value you possess.
“Well surely they’ll draw a line between people chatting online to meet up at a protest and people who actually organize it.” Why would they? And can you imagine trying to explain to a court that’s never been involved in what’s been taking place these last few months all the intricacies of how these events come together on Facebook and Twitter? Do we understand ourselves who the “organizers” are for half the events that we attend? And remember, they’re not saying “organizers of a purposefully criminal act” but simply organizers of any event that somehow can be seen as getting out of hand.
What has not been said so far in this post is what is so obvious to everyone reading it: the First Amendment very clearly says Congress shall make no law that abridges “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” But can a state make laws that abridge this freedom? Not being a lawyer I don’t know for sure, but I can imagine the years of litigation it would take to appeal your ruling to the Supreme Court, and the astronomical expense. And I can also imagine that by the time you do, the court will be well stocked with Trump appointees.
As noted earlier, this bill still has to wend its way through the Arizona House of Representatives. For now it is simply a shot across the bow of our already foundering democracy. Like many of you I’ve been struggling with that tiny voice that I suspect most Americans have that says, “Surely the system will kick in and make everything right again.” If we’re going to get through the next months and years together, we must do what we can to listen to that voice less, and the voices of our elected representatives (who are supposed to have our best interests at heart) more.

4 Comments

  1. February 23, 2017 at 10:08 pm — Reply

    My neighbors and I will continue to organize, to protest, to demand that American values be upheld. The Arizona State Senate’s action threatens our right to free speech and peaceful assembly, YET WE PERSIST. To Arizona’s Republican state senators: How dare you threaten our rights with your bully tactics, your refusal to uphold the constitution! You threaten our liberty, our property…is life next on the chopping block? Justice will prevail, and history will not shine kindly on you.

    • February 24, 2017 at 12:16 am — Reply

      We are meeting this weekend to organize the site so we can organize Arizona groups like yours, and help them grow! Blog posts at open to the public, we will have guidelines up soon.

    • February 25, 2017 at 6:24 am — Reply

      Amen! See you at the next rally!

  2. mike johnson
    February 27, 2017 at 4:45 am — Reply

    I’m still organizing. I also recommend getting email and messaging apps that are encrypted like Protonmail, cypher, WhatsApp and now Riot. Check Twitter, Facebook, your email to make sure 2 party verification is turned on. SECURITY!! Make your passwords secure. Use apps like Authy for 2 factor authorization. Just have your phone handy because you’ll need it signing into another device.
    Set up a different email address for your political activities.

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