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More Evidence Of Republican Disdain For Democracy

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More Evidence Of Republican Disdain For Democracy


Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Show up for a protest, and end up losing your home, car, and retirement account? How about losing everything over just being at a meeting or on a conference call?

Arizona State Senator Sonny Borrelli (R-AZ) has introduced an amazing bit of legislation into the Arizona senate, which has already passed—it’s in the House now. The bill would hyper-criminalize any sort of organized political dissent if any person involved with that dissent (including, presumably, agent provocateurs) were to engage in even minor “violence,” so long as that violence harms the “property,” regardless of value, of any person — including a corporation.

They’re doing this by expanding the Arizona RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law to include conspiracy to “riot” among the offenses RICO can be used against. Not unlike parts of the Patriot Act being used against wannabe terrorists, the RICO laws are a powerful blunt instrument that have been used successfully to take down mobsters who have done a very good job of insulating themselves from their crimes.

Inspired in part by the takedown of Al Capone for tax fraud and mobster Rico “Little Caesar” Bandello, the 1970 federal law was one of the first to, in a really big way, make it possible for prosecutors to go after an entire “group” of people, rather than having to target criminals one at a time. As such, it relies heavily on previous laws that had defined “conspiracy” to be a felony.

And much like Richard Nixon used the nation’s drug laws to break the backs of the anti-war and civil-rights movements, Senator Borrelli and his Republican friends apparently want to break the back of anti-GOP, anti-Trump protests with the same type of police-state overkill.

This is merely a new twist on an old Republican strategy.

In 1999, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s former domestic policy chief, told Dan Baum in an interview with Baum about Nixon’s war on drugs:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The war on drugs was devastatingly successful, and continues to be: Nixon and his successors have locked up large parts of the African American community nationwide (leaving many unable to vote for the rest of their lives), and drug busts (often setups) were used with spectacular success at the local level against SDS and other anti-war activists in the 1960s and 1970s.

Now the power of another law (RICO) designed to deal with organized crime (and expanded in recent years to include “terrorism” and “animal activism”) is about to be mobilized in a similar fashion against anybody who supports any anti-Republican demonstrations (that cause any “property damage”) in Arizona.

As you can read in the proposed law, the realm of crimes into which RICO can now be applied has been expanded from “terrorism” (a recent addition) to “riot,” which, itself has been redefined to include: “A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which EITHER disturbs the public peace OR RESULTS IN DAMAGE TO THE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON.” (All-caps from the actual text of the proposed law.)

The new law also adds in the current Arizona “riot” law (13-2903) which essentially defines “riot” as the use of “force,” and redefines “force” as anything that “disturbs the public peace.” Using a bullhorn? Chanting?  Singing? Or merely meeting and planning to do same (“threat” with the ability of “immediate power of execution” meaning you have the ability to stand outside and sing)? You’re disturbing the public peace.

AZ 13-2903 reads: “A person commits riot if, with two or more other persons acting together, such person recklessly uses force or violence or threatens to use force or violence, if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which disturbs the public peace.”

So, let’s say the local chapter of #Indivisible or #OurRevolution or #BlackLivesMatter is planning (“threatening” under this law) to bring a group of people to the offices of Senator Borrelli or any of his GOP colleagues, or just to march through downtown Phoenix to protest Trump’s bigoted policies after a particularly outrageous Executive Order.

And let’s further imagine that somebody who wants to shut down that group has infiltrated it (be they from the police, the Klan, or the Black Block). The protest happens, and the infiltrator throws a stone and breaks a window. Or some people complain that their “peace” has been “disturbed,” even if no rocks were thrown.

And you donated $25 to the group that organized the protest (but had no idea a violent infiltrator was going to show up). Or you went to a meeting of the group. Or you were on a conference call for protest planning. Or you were in the crowd on the day the stone was thrown or the “peace” was “disturbed.”

Under the civil asset forfeiture laws, being used hand-in-glove with the new RICO law, everything you own can now be seized – instantly, and before you’re even convicted of anything. And once you’ve admitted you were a “co-conspirator” – you donated, showed up, were on the call, or even a member of the chat-room – you’re now facing serious time in prison.

So, as is usually the case with RICO prosecutions, the prosecutors bring you in and offer you a deal: help us bust the leadership, and we’ll let you go. So you end up being the stone-thrower at the next demonstration. Or you go to prison.

And, in the meantime, the local or state police department has already converted your home, car, and retirement accounts into cash and used them to buy a new tank for the police station.

And to the inevitable clueless-to-their-privilege white person who says, “Riot laws aren’t controversial and they’d never use laws like this so broadly; that would be wrong,” please talk with any person of color and ask how the “uncontroversial” drug, loitering, and, for G-d sake, even taillight laws have been enforced.

The families of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Samuel DeBose, and Sandra Bland (among thousands of others), and increasingly in Trumpworld, anybody who looks Hispanic or Muslim, or even has a Muslim-sounding name like the son of Muhammad Ali, can tell you something about selective enforcement of the law in America.

This is not what democracy looks like.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host.

IMAGE: Protesters walk in the streets downtown during another night of protests over the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake



  1. Thoughtopsy February 28, 2017

    May as well acknowledge that the idea of the GOP being the “Party of the Constitution” has been a lie for a long time and can now be safely buried.

    For all their whining about “Political Correctness” and “Free Speech”… what you now see if what they really believe:

    – The only allowable “Free Speech” is speech the snowflake Republicans like: i.e. Tea Party riots and protests, Obama effigies being burned, mobs attacking Democrat town halls, GOP marches…
    But If they don’t like your Free Speech then you’re a criminal and they will CHANGE THE LAW TO CRIMINALISE YOUR FREE SPEECH. This is an obvious breech of the First Amendment and knuckle-dragging Trumptards are cheering it on. The funniest thing will be watching them after the political pendulum swings back Left, suddenly realizing that their brand new anti-free speech law means THEY now all go to jail if they protest.
    See that’s the weird thing about Republicans… they are happy to rig the system to suit themselves when in power…. without ever considering the suffering of the people they destroy, jail or kill… until the shoe is on the other foot… then suddenly they are “The Party of the Constitution” and demanding their angry white rights….

    – Political Correctness was only bad when it was used to explain why racist white people can’t use the n-word, or discriminate openly against minorities… Now that the Republicans are in charge, far from “Political Correctness” being gone, there is a brand new flavor of it in town… which is now used to block people from saying “bad” things to the fragile little egos of Republican Politicians, and used by President Snowflake endlessly whining about why the media focus on all his mistakes and keep insulting him with leaks while not giving him the respect he deserves…
    No participation trophies, Little Donnie. (Isn’t that the GOP line?)

    1. Just A Citizen March 1, 2017

      So in your mind someone who destroys other’s property is just exercising their right to speak?

      Rioting is OK with you? Harming other people is acceptable if your issue is righteous?

      1. FireBaron March 1, 2017

        Citizen, let me ask you this – do you believe in “Guild by Association”? Effectively that is what this law does. I imagine it will come crashing down their ears the first time the Knights of Columbus attempt to hold a “disruptive” “Right-to-Life” rally in front of a Planned Parenthood office and they file a complaint for damages. If you have ever been a member of that chapter (or any chapter in the state), or have contributed any money to their fundraising programs, you can be held as accountable as the person holding the bullhorn or damaging the lawn.
        Then the State will attempt to argue that the law wasn’t aimed at “nice” organizations like the KofC, and it’ll get thrown off the books as unconstitutional.

        1. Just A Citizen March 1, 2017


          What I think is that rioting, destroying property and threatening violence against others is NOT FREE SPEECH.

          Does this legislation address that while not creating pitfalls. I don’t have the full picture and cannot therefore judge it fully. All laws can be abused, as we have seen over time. It is not obvious to me this proposed law itself is abusive.

          Now to your comment, to which I replied. It appeared as though you are supporting violence or threats of violence as free speech. Where do you draw the line?

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth February 28, 2017

    The GOP exhibits more signs of derangement with each passing day. It’s as though they awake each morning and go through some routine of reminding themselves to see who’s on the Demonize List, is it up to date, are we being harsh enough for even the slightest wink or nod.
    This sort of attitude towards blacks and native Americans in the not-so-distant past has only worsened, insuring that stereotypes already programmed in our psyches from birth stay fixed. I love the emphasis the law places on property in the proposed Bill:

    “…if such threat is accompanied by immediate power of execution, which EITHER disturbs the public peace OR RESULTS IN DAMAGE TO THE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON.”

    To the GOP, money and property come first in priority(note “DAMAGE TO THE PROPERTY”); next in importance are “acceptable” people, then pets, and at the end are minorities—and beneath them, darkest-colored individuals(man, woman, or child).
    Nixon, Reagan, and Congressmen over the decades have drummed this priority list and the demonizing of dark-skinned people into the collective consciousness of Americans. (Trayvon, Michael Brown, and countless others including the recent victim in Kansas City, Kansas, had to bear the brunt of this brutal lesson taught by the GOP with their lives, and is still being taught in places like Arizona, Maine, Indiana, Florida, and all points in between).

    Christianity as an institution no longer is a viable option to correct the current madness corrupting the sensibilities of “Christian” lawmakers, and the so-called Presbyterian in the WH. This is no slur on Christianity, just as acts by jihadists can’t be accepted as being a reflection of the Essence of Islam, but simply a statement about a new challenge facing humanity that requires a renewal of Religion, the one Agency which alone can transform the hearts and minds in order to be able to reflect this in our actions and words.

    “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Matthew 9:17)

    This is a reference to “Progressive Revelation”. “New Wine”(the influence of the Spirit) must be poured into a “new bottle”(The Most Recent Revelation). This is a Paradigm put in place from the beginning of Creation of the Universe, and will continue.

    “… This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future. Let him that seeketh, attain it; and as to him that hath refused to seek it—verily, God is Self-Sufficient, above any need of His creatures. …”
    (excerpt from “Proclamation of Baha’u’llah”, written in the 19th Century and addressed to the Kings and Rulers, then and now).

  3. itsfun March 1, 2017

    I guess we are suppose to sit around and watch as our homes and businesses are burned down and our fellow citizens are beaten. We are suppose to be happy about being shouted down and denied our right to free speech. Why are these protesters so afraid of free speech? I guarantee if someone tries to burn my home down, they will be met with lead.

  4. NoJusticeNoPeace1964 March 5, 2017

    Good riddance to Leftist criminal’s like BLM and groups like them.


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