Fear that it erodes rights kills Arizona rioting bill

PHOENIX — A state bill that would have allowed protesters to be arrested over the potential to riot is dead — at least for this year.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said Monday he does not know whether legislation to expand Arizona’s racketeering and conspiracy statutes to include rioting are needed to go after those who organize violent demonstrations.

“I haven’t heard the policy arguments to decide one way or the other,” he told Capitol Media Services.

But what Mesnard said he has decided is that the public has concluded that SB 1142 would chill the rights of Arizonans to peacefully protest. And that, he said, makes the legislation politically unacceptable.

“You can’t have that many people, whether it does or doesn’t, believing that we’re, in this bill, taking away people’s rights,” Mesnard said.

The decision is a major setback for proponents. That includes Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who became the measure’s biggest defender when it was approved last week by the Republican-controlled Senate on a party-line vote.

“I think that it’s been misrepresented in the media,” he said Monday. “Little old ladies at a demonstration are not going to be RICO (racketeering) guilty because you have to actually riot, you have to engage in illegal activity or you have to conspire to do the illegal activity.”…

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