Fascist Arizona Bill Would Empower Government to Seize Assets of Protest Organizers
February 25, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A reactionary and dangerous bill aimed at further clamping down on people’s right to protest has been passed by the Republican Party-dominated Arizona state senate. If the bill, SB1142, becomes actual law, it would give the government power to seize the assets of people who organized and participated in a political protest that the police have declared as a “riot.” This would be the case even if the organizers had nothing to do with whatever alleged developments in the protest—like damage to property—the police cited to claim it was a “riot.” Such a law would be a major step toward banning anti-government protests altogether.
The Arizona bill would add “rioting” to the list of offenses that can be charged under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) laws, which allows the government to seize the assets of those allegedly involved in criminal “conspiracy.” SB1142 also expands the definition of “rioting” to include people causing damage to the property of others. The bill says that an “overt act is not required as proof of a riot offense.” As the Phoenix New Times notes, “That means the planners of the protest could be charged because someone else committed an ‘overt act’ that caused a riot.”
Let’s imagine that this bill has become an actual law. You and some others call for a march and civil disobedience action downtown to protest some outrageous new move by the Trump/Pence regime. During the protest, someone you don’t know, for whatever reason, breaks the window of a store. The police declare the protest a “riot.” Under the fascist new law, you and many others may not only be hit with serious criminal charges for “rioting,” but face the prospect of having your house, bank accounts, car, or other assets seized for being part of a “conspiracy”—even though you had nothing to do with the alleged act that supposedly made the protest a “riot.”
The intent of those behind the Arizona bill is clear: to chill out dissent and opposition by intensifying the repressive threats, and to ramp up punishment for those who continue to resist.
This Arizona bill is part of a wave of state laws that threaten harsh punishment for protest. The rise of the Trump/Pence regime to power and the extreme and repressive program they are moving on quickly have been signals to fascist forces at all levels to expand and intensify the clampdown. Reactionary forces in at least eight other states have recently introduced new laws or “reinterpreted” existing ones in order to criminalize what today are common forms of protest. These include a “Blue Lives Matter” law in Louisiana that puts police on the list of those protected under state hate crime laws; a North Dakota bill to give immunity from prosecution for drivers who run over protesters who are “too close to” the street or highway; an Indiana bill authorizing police to use “any means necessary” to break up mass gatherings that block traffic; proposed new laws in Minnesota raising penalties for nonviolent acts of protest like blocking roads and sitting in at a police station.
As we have pointed out about this wave of reactionary state laws:
Most state legislatures have been controlled for some time by Republi-fascists. The repressive words and deeds of Trump/Pence are signaling to them that “our time has come,” urging them on to pass more and more extreme repressive measures. So while some of these bills may not pass, or may be tweaked a little so as to at least loosely conform to existing constitutional law, they indicate the direction society is moving in, quite rapidly, and which will continue in leaps and bounds, locking down society and crushing dissent in a way never before seen in this country—unless and until this fascist regime is driven from power. (“Wave of State Laws Threaten Harsh Penalties for Common Forms of Protest”)
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