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Riots, RICO, ridiculous Arizona Republicans and regurgitation

(Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, File)

While we still have freedom of speech in Arizona, I’d better hurry up and tell you about Arizona state Senate Bill 1142, a proposed law that would allow the government to seize your assets and hit you with enhanced criminal charges if you simply participate in a protest that turns violent.

It wouldn’t matter if you participated in the violent part of the protest or not.

Chances are, you are going to hear that from critics of SB 1142 that it’s un-American to try to limit free speech! But the truth is, it’s not. It’s as American as apple pie because Americans politicians have been trying to do so for years.

Arizona politicians are just the latest ones to do so.

On a vote of 17-13 (split along party lines), SB 1142 advanced out of the Senate and now heads over to the House.

Why is there a need to punish people who don’t commit crimes? The reason you’ll get from conservative lawmakers is that there are paid protesters out there who need to be stopped because they’ve been involved in protests that turned violent.

The Democrats will argue paid protesters are fake news, but I beg to differ. There are plenty of paid protesters out there and plenty of paid organizers, but their existence is not a reason to shred the Constitution.

We have laws, by the way, that are designed to hold people who riot responsible — even the ones who incite the riot. These laws cover things such as what constitutes an unlawful assembly and a riot in Arizona and spells out who is responsible.

Heck, there’s even a law that compels officials to disperse an unlawful assembly. (For what? In case some cop decides he agrees with the protesters?)

Why don’t we just vigorously enforce those laws instead of adding more laws to the book? I’m sure some of the very same lawmakers behind SB 1142 have said the same about gun rights.

The existence of RICO (asset-forfeiture) laws in the first place is bad enough. I realize that they were created to combat bad guys — such as the mafia and drug cartels — but the idea that the government can simply accuse somebody of doing something wrong, declare the money in their bank account as ill-gotten gains and then force them to prove that it’s not, well, that is the very essence of guilty before proven innocent.

But using RICO statutes against Americans who are merely expressing an opinion and don’t do anything violent or destructive – even when the crowd around them did so – sounds like the equivalent of prosecuting the owner of a rug store because his carpet was used to roll up a dead body.

Or withdrawing money from your bank right before it’s robbed. Or driving down a freeway at the posted speed limit right before some idiot is clocked at 100 miles per hour. Or…please don’t make me go on.

I told you a few weeks ago when the Arizona Legislature officially went into session how nervous I was about the safety of our rights because you never know what they’re going to dream up under the copper dome.

Sometimes, it seems like they’re just trying to find a problem to throw a solution at.

In this case, the problem is people who say things that Republican lawmakers don’t like and, even though you didn’t throw a rock at cops, a brick through a window or a Molotov cocktail, the fact that you threw an insult at conservatives makes them want to throw the book at you.

And that makes me want to throw up.

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