Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Republicans challenge the right to protest in Ariz.


Widespread protests have been occurring in many locations in America around the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump, and Republicans in Arizona want to do something to curb the violence that often arises at those protests.

Lower Antelope Canyon near Page, Ariz. (iStock)

In hopes of stopping protests from becoming violent and destroying property, such as smashing windows or lighting cars on fire, Republicans in Arizona’s state senate passed a bill that will allow law enforcement to seize the property of any individual associated with a protest at which property was damaged or any kind of violence occurred, the Arizona Republic reports.

The bill reminds me very much of the Acts of Attainder, instituted under King Henry VIII in England, used in the 18th century but abolished completely by 1870. The US never had such legislation on the books.

Henry used the laws, the idea for which was developed in the Middle Ages, in order to sentence people to death without a trial, mainly because he probably didn’t want some of the scandalous information the accused criminals knew about him coming out as they tried to defend themselves in court. Our Constitution was built on principles that directly opposed this type of abuse of power.

In an op-ed for the Arizona Capitol Times, writer Howard Fischer quotes state Senator Steve Farley, a Democrat who voted against the bill, as did all the outnumbered Democrats in the state senate, as proposing an example of what this bill could mean if it becomes law and passes any legal challenges:

A “Tea Party” group wanting to protest a property tax hike might get permits, publicize the event and have a peaceful demonstration. And one person, possibly from the other side, starts breaking the windows of a car. And all of a sudden the organizers of that march, the local Tea Party, are going to be under indictment from the county attorney in the county that raised those property taxes. That will have a chilling effect on anybody, right or left, who wants to protest something the government has done.

A sense of history dictates that bills like the one now in the Arizona House be opposed. Nobody condones the violence, but seizing people’s property without due process violates their rights and is likely to be harnessed by people who are on the other side of the protester’s debate in order to squelch the voices of protest.

Furthermore, this is kind of like punishing the entire class because one student misbehaves, instead of just the one bad student, as if everyone in the class was responsible for that one student’s bad behavior. Even 8-year-olds know this type of punishment is unfair, but apparently, the Republican senators in Arizona missed that lesson in kindergarten.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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