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Attorney: Democratic lawmakers protest in Arizona abortion hearing was dissent, not insurrection

Democrats facing ethics complaints in the Arizona House of Representatives say they did nothing wrong while protesting Republicans who blocked a vote to repeal Arizona’s near total ban on abortion. 

Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos (D-Laveen) and Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) chanted “shame on you” and “blood on your hands” towards Republicans in the House on April 10 after GOP lawmakers used procedural maneuvers to prevent a vote on the repeal, which would pass weeks later

Ethics complaints filed by Reps. Barbara Parker (R-Mesa), David Marshall (R-Snowflake) and Rachel Jones (R-Tucson) allege De Los Santos and Ortiz’s actions violated House rules against disorderly behavior and that De Los Santos violated another House rule because he began chanting before the House’s floor session was officially over.

In response to the complaint, attorney Jim Barton sent the House Ethics Committee a letter claiming De Los Santos and Ortiz were engaged in passionate debate, not disorderly conduct. He did not dispute that they chanted and yelled on the floor but said that alone did not justify an ethics complaint.

“Dissent cannot be made synonymous with Disorderly Behavior,” Barton wrote. 

“[De Los Santos’] aggressive behavior caused members of the House to fear for their safety,” according to the complaint. “Given his actions were intended to threaten members and force the House to act in accordance with his will, they could even be characterized as an attempted insurrection.”

Barton, responding to those claims, pointed out that Ortiz and De Los Santos did not threaten anyone, or endanger the physical safety of other legislators. 

He says their dissent, even if it was rude, is not worthy of punishment.

“This vocal dissent, perhaps even discourteous in tone, is simply not something worthy of punishment,” Barton wrote. 

Barton also took issue with Republicans' allegations that De Los Santos and Oritz “incited a riot on the House Floor,” and engaged in an attempted insurrection.

“A riot requires acts of violence or at least a threat of violence,” Barton wrote. “An insurrection indicates disrupting the exercise of official actions — here the accused were expressing anger that official actions were unnecessarily delayed.”

Barton alleged the claims were an attempt to tie the protest to the Jan. 6, 2020, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol saying “the not-so-subtle effort to equate the two is disgusting.”

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.