Update to Why Policing Reform Is So Vitally Necessary (excerpt):

Which brings me to this authoritarian Rethuglican in the Arizona Republican Sedition Party who wants to criminalize public protests (like Black Lives Matter) and to punish cities that “defund the police” (repurpose funds for mental heath, social services, and conflict resolution).


Maybe we should first purge police departments of bad cops who are members of white supremacist organizations or other anti-government extremist groups who engage in sedition and insurrection against the government. They pose an actual threat to national security and public safety.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, GOP lawmaker pushes bill to punish cities that defund police:

A Republican House member has, with the support of most of his caucus, introduced bills to take state money away from cities that cut their police budgets and to create tougher new penalties for people who take part in riots.

“Proposals to defund police departments are reckless and dangerous,” Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, said in a written statement Friday. “Once unthinkable, except to left-wing extremists, such calls appear to have recently gained disturbing traction in some mainstream Democratic circles. More than ever, our communities need the protection that only law enforcement can offer – and that’s why we must do everything to protect the resources that enable officers to do their job.  This legislation will prevent radical efforts to defund police budgets and help protect law enforcement and keep communities safe.”

After the storming of the capitol by Trump domestic terrorists, spare me that “law and order” party bullshit. The Sedition Party are the “domestic enemies” they all swore an oath to defend against.

Roberts is the main sponsor of both the anti-police defunding bill H2310 and the anti-rioter bill H2309, and he has the backing of the overwhelming majority of his fellow House Republicans on both. Twenty-four out of the House’s 31 Republicans are co-sponsoring H2310, and 26 are co-sponsoring H2309. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, who called them “thoughtful and timely bills that recognize and respect the importance of supporting the work of law enforcement to keep Arizona communities safe,” have signed onto both.

H2309 would create a new class 6 felony crime of violent or disorderly assembly, “if a person, with seven or more other persons acting together, and with the intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot or an unlawful assembly, causes damage to property or injury to another person,” according to the bill summary, and anyone convicted under it would be barred from receiving state or local public benefits in the future. It also says someone arrested for violent or disorderly assembly cannot be released from custody for at least 12 hours “unless a magistrate finds that the person is not likely to immediately resume the criminal behavior.” It would reclassify assaulting a peace officer while violating this law as a class 6 felony and require at least 6 months in jail for anyone convicted thereof. And, it would raise obstructing a highway, public nuisance, shining a laser pointer at a police officer or recklessly damaging property worth between $250 and $1,000 from a misdemeanor to a class 6 felony if done in the course of committing violent or disorderly assembly.

Will this apply equally to Trump’s violent domestic terrorists? Or just to civil rights protestors, like Black Lives Matter, with whom Roberts disagrees? Trick question. You already know the answer.

HB 2309 came up for a vote on Monday. Howard Fischer reports, Arizona House panel votes to give police more arrest options at demonstrations:

A House panel voted Monday to give police more options to arrest people at demonstrations, approving legislation that foes contend will be used to target minorities.

House Bill 2309 would create a new crime of “violent or disorderly assembly.” It would apply to those who, along with seven or more persons, intend to engage in conduct constituting a riot and cause damage to property or injury to someone else.

There are already sufficient laws on the books for criminal property damage, trespass, arson, breaking and entry, theft, assault and battery, etc. Someone who engages in this conduct can be charged under existing laws applicable to their alleged criminal conduct.

The 8-5 party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee moves the measure along to the full House.

“This bill is going to infringe on the right of free assembly by intimidating people away from exercising their rights out of fear of criminal penalty,” said Rhonda Neff, a lawyer speaking for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice. Its members represent defendants in criminal cases.

Neff said the Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office already use existing laws to target what she said were legitimate protests.

“And it has been largely politically motivated against people’s stance of law enforcement,” she said. [i.e, the anti-police defunding bill H2310 aimed at the “Defund The Police” movement.]

Marilyn Rodriguez of the American Civil Liberties Union went a step further, saying the measure “allows police and prosecutors to target black and brown communities who speak out against the brutality they face at the hands of police each and every day.”

Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, the author of the legislation, does not deny it is designed to have some deterrent effect.

“We have to be stronger and give anybody that chooses to exercise their First Amendment right a moment of pause before they decide to not peacefully assemble,” he said. But Roberts said anyone who is engaged in a peaceful protest has nothing to fear.

Neff, however, said that’s not the way it would work. She said it adds new penalties to “disorderly assembly.”

“Disorderly assembly is a very broad term and is subject to abuse just on its own,” Neff said.

“There are innocent actors that get tied up into this as well, where one protester or another may engage in some form of violent assembly (with) other people around them,” she said. “And then the entire protest is deemed a disorderly assembly and all the people end up being punished due to innocent conduct.”

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said he doesn’t read the bill that way. He said someone can be arrested only if he or she engages in the existing crimes of unlawful assembly or riot “and then does extra stuff.”

Unlawful assembly, Kavanagh said, is what happens when police have declared it that, requiring everyone to leave.

No, it is defined by law, which is what this bill purportedly is attempting to define. It is not whatever a police officer deems it is. That is an abuse of power.

“If you’re staying at an unlawful assembly or a riot, you’re not an innocent person,” said Kavanagh, a retired police officer. “You’re somebody breaking the law.”

There are always stragglers and curious looky-loos, “innocent actors that get tied up into this as well.” Unless someone is personally involved in some kind of illegal activity – “does extra stuff” – they are innocent bystanders. One is not guilty simply by being in mere proximity to an event.

Applying Kavanagh’s logic, every MAGA rally protester in Washington, D.C. on January 6 should be arrested and charged, whether they stormed the Capitol or not, and that includes the speakers at the rally who incited them. Is that what Kavanagh wants? You already know the answer.

He scoffed at the idea that enacting this kind of law would suppress free speech. [Of course, he did].

“The people who are suppressing free speech are the people who are engaging in unlawful assembly and riot,” he argued.

“Time after time, over the past year, we have seen otherwise lawful assemblies be disrupted by violent behavior, especially in cities like Seattle and Portland,” Kavanagh said. “Violent people hijacked lawful assemblies and that causes the lawful people to have to stop exercising their First Amendment and flee because they don’t want to be hurt or arrested.”

You mean like “Umbrella Man” in Minneapolis? Minneapolis police say ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting:

A masked man who was seen in a viral video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store during the George Floyd protests, earning him the moniker “Umbrella Man,” is suspected of ties with a white supremacist group and sought to incite racial tension, police said.

A Minneapolis police arson investigator said the act of vandalism at the AutoZone on E. Lake Street helped spark a chain reaction that led to days of looting and rioting. The store was among dozens of buildings across the city that burned to the ground in the days that followed.

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Sgt. Erika Christensen wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in court this week. “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”

Police identified “Umbrella Man” thanks to a tip that came via e-mail last week, Christensen said.

“At the time, activists seized on the footage as proof that outside “provocateurs” were trying to derail what had been a mostly peaceful demonstration.

But Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe, said her experience is that these kinds of laws tend to work only one way.

“We have one system that allows individuals that breached the (state) Capitol during my new orientation to go unpunished,” she said.

That refers to a group that rushed into the state House on Dec. 3, bypassing security, chanting and shouting. That was an effort to convince Arizona lawmakers to declare the results of the November election void.

In that same group was Jake Angeli, the horn-wearing self-proclaimed QAnon shaman who a month later was arrested at the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. There were no arrests at the Capitol in Phoenix.

Hernandez said those who have incited violence in Arizona also have gone unpunished.

Maybe if this QAnon nut job had been arrested on December 3, like he should have been, he wouldn’t have been emboldened to be in Washington, D.C. on January 6 to defile the U.S. Senate in a seditious insurrection.

“We have another system of justice that harshly targets and penalizes people of color,” she said.

The Associated Press captured this racial disparity well in Race double standard clear in rioters’ Capitol insurrection:

Black Lives Matter protests, 2020: Overwhelming force from law enforcement in dozens of cities. Chemical dispersants. Rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat with largely peaceful crowds and some unruly vandals and looters. More than 14,000 arrests.

The U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021: Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Several weapons seized, improvised explosive devices found. Members of a wilding mob escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs.

The key difference? The first set of protesters were overwhelmingly Black Americans and their allies. The second group was overwhelmingly white Americans who support outgoing President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.

Neff said there are other flaws in what Roberts has proposed.

One requires that anyone arrested under this new crime would have to be held in jail for at least 12 hours.

This is reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis being arrested and jailed for nonviolent protests against segregation and Jim Crow laws. The Rev. King wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

There is an escape clause of sorts which allows release if a magistrate concludes the person is “not likely to immediately resume the criminal behavior based on the circumstances of the arrest and the person’s previous criminal history.” But Neff said that’s largely meaningless, as defendants are largely unrepresented at initial appearances and usually cannot speak.

“That presumptively is a violation of the Fourth Amendment” which protects against illegal seizure, she said.

Roberts said he is considering altering his bill when it gets to the full House to remove that provision.

He also said he will scrap another section that says anyone convicted of this new crime would be forever ineligible for state and local benefits, including public housing and state-provided scholarships and tuition waivers, and forfeits the right to ever be employed by state or local government.

“I believe there should be repercussions for your actions,” Roberts said. “However, I also believe someone should have the opportunity to redeem themselves and get back on the right track and not have prior aspects counted against them in certain regards.”

Then where did this provision in your bill come from? It is almost certainly written by some right-wing think tank. I am confident you didn’t write your own bill. Who wrote it? Similar bills are being introduced in Red States all over the country. Who is responsible for your bill?