There’s No Republican Crackdown on Peaceful Protests

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate recently passed on a party-line vote a bill that addresses a real, if sporadic problem (protests that erupt into violent riots), but with a dose of overkill: racketeering laws designed for organized crime:

The full Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that makes participating in or helping organize a protest that turns into a riot an offense that could lead to criminal racketeering charges, legislation Republican backers say is needed to crack down on violent protesters.

The measure adds rioting to the organized crime statutes and says an overt act isn’t needed to prove conspiracy to riot, meaning someone could be charged who wasn’t involved in the actual riot.

In an effort to produce a “trend” of Republican crackdowns on “peaceful protest,” a story by Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post’s WonkBlog draws together Republican proposals in 18 states (many of them proposals by an individual legislator or otherwise far from becoming a law), gratuitously comparing them to responses to the (scrupulously non-violent) Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Arizona proposal, like a few of the others, imposes excessive and unnecessary sanctions that hopefully will be moderated before being passed into law, but even a cursory review of Ingraham’s examples illustrate that nearly all are aimed at violence, property destruction, and obstruction of the lives and livelihoods of ordinary citizens, not just non-violent protests. Of the 18 state proposals:

Parties in power tend to dislike protests, of course, and Republicans in some states may well be overreacting to the persistence of riots, looting, arson, and violence that tend to accompany left-wing protests over the past decade. But the narrative that this is a wave of legal crackdowns on people peacefully stating their case to the public is a false one.

Dan McLaughlin — Dan McLaughlin is an attorney practicing securities and commercial litigation in New York City, and a contributing columnist at National Review Online.

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