Arizona legislators just passed a Republican bill to crack down on protesters. The Left is angry, even spooked by the bill. Conservatives and libertarians should be upset too.

The ostensible point of the law is to place violent anarchist rioters (like the ones at Trump’s inauguration that smashed windows, and broke my reporter’s iPhone and gave him a concussion) within the reach of racketeering laws. Anyone who loves limits on government power ought to be skeptical of racketeering laws, especially their expansion. Originally devised to go after the mob, racketeering laws are basically a way for law enforcement to slap big penalties people they just know are criminals, but on whom they don’t have any really good dirt.

Unsurprisingly, government has loved using this tool on all sorts of political enemies, such as pro-life protesters. This Arizona law, passed with black-clad, facemask-wearing window smashers in mind. Democratic lawmakers rightly pointed out the “guilt-by-association” problem here.

Many protests that turn out violent unfold like this: Ideological organizers plan a peaceful protest; idiot anarchists tag along; idiot anarchists break stuff and hurt people.

This law, critics argue, would implicate the protest organizers in the violence of the idiot anarchists.

And the juvenile idiocy of the anarchists is another factor the lawmakers miss here. Here’s one GOP legislator:

But Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that chilling effect is aimed at a very specific group of protesters.
“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,” he said.
“A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists,” Kavanagh continued. “But this stuff is all planned.”

The vagueness of that phrase “this stuff is all planned,” is the key here. Yes, the protesters plan a protest. The anarchists plan to tag along. Maybe the anarchists even go planning to smash a window.

That neither (a) implicates the protest organizers, nor (b) indicates some brilliant anarchist conspiracy. Has Sen. Kavanagh ever been to one of these protests that attracts the anarchists? I’ve been chatting with these people since 2002 at least. Mostly, they’re nerdy white dudes who are about 20, acting out inchoate angst in a dumb way. They coordinated over some message board, and their “funding” is probably their allowance from their unwitting parents.

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“We need to tap into the energy that’s happening in the grassroots now,” Buttigieg said.

02/23/17 10:08 AM

But increasingly GOP lawmakers are getting paranoid about political dissent. They see that liberal town hall disruptors or questioners have organized before coming and the Congressmen conclude there’s some well-funded conspiracy here. They see hoax ads offering to pay protestors, and they immediately believe the ads are genuine.

Paranoia—or something like it—shows up in another way. Check out this quote:

By including rioting in racketeering laws, it actually permits police to arrest those who are planning events. And Kavanagh, a former police officer, said if there are organized groups, “I should certainly hope that our law enforcement people have some undercover people there.”
“Wouldn’t you rather stop a riot before it starts?” Kavanagh asked colleagues during debate. “Do you really want to wait until people are injuring each other, throwing Molotov cocktails, picking up barricades and smashing them through businesses in downtown Phoenix?”

Preventing crime is great. But conservatives understand that no government can prevent all bad things, and laws aimed at totally preventing all bad things often end up being worse than the bad things.

This Arizona law appears unconservative, unlibertarian, and frankly, embarrassing.

Conway jokes CPAC could become 'TPAC' in honor of Trump

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Conway was the first of several senior Trump administration officials slated to speak at CPAC.

02/23/17 9:59 AM

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s commentary editor, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.

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