UPDATE: This bill has been killed in response to public outcry! Read more here.
The Arizona Senate passed a sweeping bill on Wednesday that takes aims at protesters, even peaceful ones. And the House will act next.
Being able to freely express oneself by marching, picketing, and protesting is one of the central tenets of a democracy. But under SB1142, protests could be shut down before they happen and organizers of peaceful protests could be held liable for the actions of individuals unassociated with them.
Arizona lawmakers say the bill is necessary to combat the invented problem of people being paid to riot.
Here’s how the bill is described in the News Tribune:
The legislation, if passed by the Arizona House, would give law enforcement the ability to criminally prosecute and seize assets of people who plan or participate in a protest. The bill furthers the reach of the state’s racketeering laws to include rioting, which it redefines as any action that causes property damage. Racketeering has traditionally been targeted at organized crime.
The law makes anyone at a protest guilty by association if even just one person turns violent or begins damaging property. The police would have the right to arrest anyone present and criminally prosecute them, even if they personally were peacefully protesting and had not engaged in any violent or destructive behavior.
It passed the Senate 17-13 and now heads to the House.