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Bill To Expand Racketeering Law Against Rioters Advances Through Senate

A bill that could affect Arizonans’ rights to speech and assembly is moving through the state Legislature.  Republican lawmakers say the bill is aimed at preventing paid rioters. Senate Bill 1142 would allow police and prosecutors to go after the organizers of a protest if a handful of the participants engage in unlawful acts.

The legislation expands the state racketeering law, which was written to combat organized crime.

Supporters of the bill cite violent protests that have occurred across the country as a reason to strengthen the law.

But Arizona ACLU spokesman Steve Killar says there’s already enough legislation on the books. “We have a law that criminalizes riot itself. We have a law that criminalizes disorderly conduct. We have assault. We have a law that criminalizes damage to property,” Killar said.

Killar says they are unaware of any similar laws in place throughout the country. He says the ACLU sees the legislation as an attempt to quell protests, and he fears it would have a chilling effect on free speech.

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.