State Senator Wants To Turn First Amendment Activity Into 'Economic Terrorism'

Source: Techdirt.com

There’s a new brand of terrorism on the loose and Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen is the only one who can stop it. (h/t Jeff Pohjola)

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said Wednesday he is preparing a bill that would create a new crime of “economic terrorism…”

Gotta love it when legislators start creating crimes out of thin air. What would compose “economic terrorism” in the eyes of Sen. Ericksen? Would it be market manipulation? Intentional flash crashes? Setting currency on fire in a crowded theater while shouting “Fire!”?

Sadly, no. It would be First Amendment-protected activity. From the senator’s website:

– Timely measure criminalizes illegal protests aimed at causing economic damage

– Applies to unlawful disruption of transportation and commerce

– Allows treble damages against funders and organizers

So, calling for a boycott of Starbucks because their “holiday” cups are crafted from pieces of the Shroud of Turin would definitely be “aimed at causing economic damage.” Walking around outside and hassling otherwise unoffended coffee buyers would “disrupt commerce.” And, at the end of the prosecutorial day, the person who created the “official” boycott Facebook page could be charged with a felony and forced to pay back $10-12 for the one cup of coffee disrupted.

Digging into the details of Ericksen’s proposal only uncovers more stupidity.

The measure would allow felony prosecution of those who intentionally break the law in an attempt to intimidate or coerce private citizens or the government by obstructing economic activity.

Weird. This leaves the possibility of unintentionally breaking the law, which presumably should lead to dismissed charges. Mens rea is nice and all, but this is just redundant verbiage meant to show how serious Ericksen is about his proposed law. This new puntitive measure will apparently felonize the hell out of protesters who mean it the most. Or whatever.

“I respect the right to protest…”

Says Ericksen, clearly not respecting the right to protest. If protesters break existing laws, then they can be dealt with accordingly. There’s no reason to craft a new law and create a new form of criminal activity that uses the First Amendment as a doormat for its jackboots.

Ericksen feels super-strongly about this new law. So strongly, in fact, that he seems to have almost zero grasp on the logistics of its deployment.

He didn’t indicate who would determine when protesters become economic terrorists.

Great. Let’s just leave that in the hands of law enforcement, which has always been wonderful when allowed to exercise its own discretion. Give them a “blue lives matter” law and they’ll throw the book at every drunken arrestee who calls them names. Give them the latitude to decide when picketing crosses into “economic terrorism,” and I’m sure they’ll make the right call.

Speaking of picketing, Ericksen says his proposed law won’t target this. Or strikes. But picketing and strikes are often meant to achieve the same ends the senator says should now be criminal actions: economic damage and disruption of transportation or commerce. So, he’s set his own bill against itself and feels those in charge of enforcing even the stupidest of laws will just sort it all out for him.

If this somehow becomes law, it will face an immediate First Amendment challenge. If it somehow survives that, it will become a burden for the criminal justice system, with both prosecutors and defenders having to work their way through a slough of trumped-up charges.

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Source: Techdirt.com

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