News from 2014: Protesting on the streets of Moscow — or any other part of Russia, for that matter — will now not only cost a pretty penny, but also could land you behind bars, after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a law into effect criminalizing street protests. Meanwhile in Russia, Putin passes law against protests.

News from today: Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened. Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent.


That’s right, our authoritarian Tea-Publican legislature has taken a page from the autocratic Vladimir Putin and criminalized protests — despite protections for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States — because someone watched Minority Report (2002) — in which a “Pre-crime” law enforcement unit predicts crimes beforehand and the guilty are punished before the crime has ever been committed — and thought, “hey, why don’t we do that?

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports:

Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad — even before anything actually happened.

SB1142 expands the state’s racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others.

But 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. And what’s worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, 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.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, acknowledged that sometimes what’s planned as a peaceful demonstration can go south.

“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,’’ he said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.’’

Quezada said, though, that everything that constitutes rioting already is a crime, ranging from assault to criminal damage, and those responsible can be individually prosecuted. He said the purpose of this bill appears to be designed to chill the First Amendment rights of people to decide to demonstrate in the first place for fear something could wrong.

But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters.

“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,’’ he said.

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

You mean like conservative provocateurs Anne Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos? Of course not.  Sen. Kavanagh means just “lefties.”

Apparently our blog troll fascist does not realize that even “anarchists” are protected by First Amendment freedoms, the same as Neo-Nazis, the KKK, Sagebrush Rebellion secessionists, so-called Patriot Militias and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (which claims the power to refuse to enforce federal laws) for example, and they can already be charged and prosecuted for any crimes that they commit.

If this law had been in effect in Alabama in 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and John Lewis (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) would have been arrested before their peaceful march on Selma, Alabama turned violent with a police riot at the Edmund Pettis bridge on “Bloody Sunday.” This is how this law can be abused by police.  Sen. Kavanagh would be perfectly OK with this:

There’s something else: By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events. And Kavanagh, a former police officer, said if there are organized groups, “I should certainly hope that our law enforcement people have some undercover people there.’’

Just like J. Edgar Hoover had undercover FBI agents tracking everything that Dr. King was doing during the Civil Rights Movement.

“Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts?’’ Kavanagh asked colleagues during debate. “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?’’

There is no crime until one is actually committed. Now we know who watched Minority Report and thought to himself, “hey, why don’t we do that?”

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the new criminal laws are necessary.

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

She agreed with Quezada that there already are laws that cover overt acts. But Allen said they don’t work.

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

Yes, we wouldn’t want another Dr. King writing another Letter from a Birmingham Jail to rally a movement.

Farley, however, said the legislation does far more than simply going after those who might incite people to riot, something which actually already is a crime. And he warned Republicans that such a broad law could end up being used against some of their allies.

For example, he said, a “Tea Party’’ group wanting to protest a property tax hike might get permits, publicize the event and have a peaceful demonstration.

“And one person, possibly from the other side, starts breaking the windows of a car,’’ Farley said.

“And all of a sudden the organizers of that march, the local Tea Party, are going to be under indictment from the county attorney in the county that raised those property taxes,’’ he said. “That will have a chilling effect on anybody, right or left, who wants to protest something the government has done.’’

Sen. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said the whole legislation is based on a false premise of how disturbances happen.

“This idea that people are being paid to come out and do that?’’ she said. “I’m sorry, but I think that is fake news.’’

Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, had her own concerns.

“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,’’ she said.

The 17-13 party-line vote sends the bill to the House.

Contact your state representatives and tell them to kill this unconstitutional bill, SB1142.

UPDATE: House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said Monday that SB1142 is dead, at least for this year. Mesnard says he killed rioting bill because it became politically unacceptable:

Mesnard said he has decided that the public has concluded SB1142 would chill the rights of Arizonans to peacefully protest. And that, he said, makes the legislation politically unacceptable.

It was also politically unacceptable to Governor Ducey. Most interesting bill in the world: Governor Ducey had planned to put out a statement opposing Borrelli’s S1142, but that ultimately became unnecessary after learning that [House Speaker] Mesnard was going to kill the bill, a Capitol railbird who’s familiar with the situation told our reporter this morning.

The decision is a major setback for proponents, which includes Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who became the measure’s biggest defender.

Kavanagh acknowledged he knows of no situations in Arizona where such a law would be needed. But he said that’s irrelevant because he believes, based on what he’s seen on TV, that it’s happening elsewhere.

I know it’s true, oh so true, cause I saw it on T.V.” — John Fogerty.