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The right to peacefully assemble and protest is fundamental to being an American. However, there has been a trend toward the other type of protest. Those have dragged on for months in cities like Seattle and Portland, and unfortunately, there seems to be a tolerance among authorities in those places.

Last month, rioters contesting the presidential election results broke into the U.S. Capitol, people died and the event of Jan. 6 is rightly seen as an attack on our form of government.

Meanwhile, Arizona Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, has introduced a bill that would make violent protesters subject to harsher penalties. Some organizations have stepped up to say that people’s rights would be violated, but the bill has much merit in the way of ensuring that protests stay peaceful. Enforcement, if this becomes law, would be a strong deterrent to violence.

The Pinal County legislator’s bill, House Bill 2309, addresses “violent or disorderly assembly.” The measure would target those who, with seven or more people, engage in a riot and damage property or injure someone. The act would be a Class 6 felony. It would raise other crimes from misdemeanors to felony level if done in such situations. Included are aiming a laser pointer at a peace officer, damaging property, obstructing a thoroughfare, abusing a venerated object and using fireworks. Assaulting an officer would mean a minimum of six months in jail.

Roberts, a former constable and detention officer, included a provision to keep arrested protesters in jail for at least 12 hours. However, he said he would remove that by amendment after a constitutional question was raised.

When protests arose months ago following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, those in Pinal County were peaceful but some in the Valley were not. Elsewhere in the country, they have gone way beyond what should be allowed.

Roberts’ bill, which is advancing in the Legislature, certainly has merit. It may need amendment, but it should be passed.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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