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

from the what-this-nation-needs-is-LESS-dissent-apparently dept

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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Comments on “State Senator Wants To Turn First Amendment Activity Into 'Economic Terrorism'”

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Anonmylous says:

You got it all wrong!

This will be great news for a whole slew of businesses and peoples throughout the US! Its awesome to see Republicans finally opening up and protecting those they traditionally have tried to oppress! It’ll be wonderful to see police able to arrest people protesting outside of abortion clinics at last! I can’t wait to see those sad members of Westborough finally arrested for protesting at films and other public venues that support homosexuals and godless heathens like Kevin Smith! Oh and finally, FINALLY, no more protesters outside of Planned Parenthood locations.

Maybe this whole Trump presidency really is signalling the turning of a new leaf for the Republican party!

NotInMyAmerica says:

First they came for our safe zones then they came for...

President Bush created protest zones. People were locked behind chain link fences but given the right to ‘free’ speech.

Now they want to enlarge ‘free’ speech protest zones to include any location that disrupts.

The end result is speech without protesting, picketing without disruption in other words if you have anything to say, it must align with those in power.

In my opinion, “Fuck this Doug Erickson guy all to hell”.
Will he come to techdirt and demand a DCMA take down because I had a negative opinion of him and expressed in language he may consider foul too?

This is like the little kid in the playground who wants a safe space away from all the other kids because they challenge the kid to a game and the kid is afraid if losing.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: No Protests Allowed

Consider the people who think it is so horrible that Colin Kaepernick won’t stand during the national anthem.

What form of protest would those people like? Would they like it better if he were out burning cars and breaking the windows of businesses as a form of protest?

In fact, what these people want is a form of protest that is totally invisible so that they don’t have to be offended by it.

You can have free speech as long as it is impossible for anyone to hear it — even if they want to. You can exercise your free speech in a location that is out of range of seeing and hearing to other people.

Isn’t the purpose of a protest to be able to draw attention to some perceived injustice? Don’t we all want to be made aware of injustice, before it happens to us?

First they came for the InstaFaceTwit users, but I was silent because I did not use InstaFaceTwit. Etc.

ANON says:

Well, duh!

It’s already illegal to throw stuff at police, break windows, even walk in the street. All this “Oughta be a law” mentality does is pile on the opportunity to make one offense a 35-count indictment if the DA “wants to get you”, giving a jaywalker the opportunity to plead guilty on the DA’s terms or face 35 years in jail.

If he really wants to make a difference, here’s a suggestion – make the law fair. Change the law to match the British system. The most the DA can threaten you with over there is 50% more sentence – so an obviously guilty person is persuaded to plead guilty, but an innocent person has an incentive to fight, since the possible loss is not so expensive.

Creating a new law designed to add charges to an existing offense to make it a much longer sentence is the a maneuver designed to stifle dissent. Let’s state the obvious – he wants a bigger hammer to punish those protesting the election of his party’s candidate. At least many other crazies who want big-hammer laws are “thinking of the children”. This guy’s just thinking of the big baby who was elected president.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'll just leave this here...

Here at TD we will not put up with this shit!

We only subscribe to this when a person we do not like is in power, but when a person we do like gets into power, we want them to rule with an iron fist through regulation!

Just about everyone here has already forgotten what America was meant to be or just never learned in the first place! Which explains our current predicament!

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: I'll just leave this here...

We only subscribe to this when a person we do not like is in power, but when a person we do like gets into power, we want them to rule with an iron fist through regulation!

Seems to me that TD has been pretty consistent in opposing government action it doesn’t like (mass surveillance) and supporting government action it does (net neutrality regulations) regardless of who’s in power.

Can you name an example of an issue that the site has changed its mind on based on who’s "in power" (presumably you mean President, but I’ll take any other political office or private-industry leadership role)?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'll just leave this here...

Tom Wheeler and the FCC.

too long to expand in detail… so here is the short version.

The new rules clearly give the FCC more power than it should have had to begin with it. This means that when the next corruption gets in they can undo everything Wheeler does. TD likes the new rules.

The new rules only work if we have a decent person in power and can be easily abused when someone terrible replaces that person. Congratulations, you have only succeeded in ensuring your own failure with the device you devised to obtain salvation!

The FCC is the beginning of just about all of the problems with the Telco Monopolies and TD still cheers it on, because right now… they like Wheeler. That story alone is proof!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'll just leave this here...

I actually doubt that. No one walks the earth immune from this shit, it’s the fundamental reason I say it is bullshit to expect that true unbiased news is possible.

Did you remember the whole Redskins vs Trademark crap that TD had to change its mind on here? I am saying this will be like that, except well it is already starting to look like that via the Zero Rating stuff, not to mention the cock blocking by Congress on net neutrality to begin with. But let me assure you, the new rules that TD likes, will not and has not been changing the landscape in any meaningful ways.

So yea… no change in landscape and TD is too happy about it. That makes TD either stupid or just exactly what I accused this place of being. And I don’t mean just TD alone, I include you clowntopia ‘pro regulation’ zealots.

I don’t hate ALL regulation but way more than enough compared to you guys to be considered anti-regulation!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'll just leave this here...

Yes, and Wheeler did turn out to be a surprise there. However, that made TD drop its guard and liked his new rules more than they should have.

Did you catch the calls for Obama to begin to reign in the Surveillance state before Trump gets into office? The same applies here.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I'll just leave this here...

Yes, and Wheeler did turn out to be a surprise there. However, that made TD drop its guard and liked his new rules more than they should have.

So you’re saying TD started supporting Wheeler because he was doing good work, and then kept supporting him only because he was doing good work and not because… um… what?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'll just leave this here...

Tom Wheeler and the FCC.

Ah, but you see, there are a couple of very good reasons people (not just Techdirt but the EFF, among others) have changed their minds about Wheeler.

The first and simplest is that Wheeler has turned out to be a much more consumer-friendly FCC head than initially (and reasonably) assumed.

The second is that it’s become very, very clear that Congress isn’t going to do anything to enforce net neutrality. I was very much in the camp that felt we needed to leave net neutrality to the legislative branch rather than the executive branch — until it became clear that it wasn’t a choice between executive and legislative, it was a choice between executive and nothing. Title II is an imperfect solution to the net neutrality problem, but it’s the only one we’ve got.

This means that when the next corruption gets in they can undo everything Wheeler does. […] The new rules only work if we have a decent person in power and can be easily abused when someone terrible replaces that person.

Wait, which is it? Is the next head of the FCC going to repeal Wheeler’s rules, or abuse them? He can’t very well do both.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'll just leave this here...

I think the idea is “now that we’ve granted the FCC the power to make rules like this, the new head will abuse that power, including by repealing the rules Wheeler’s FCC made”.

I.e., the problem with supporting the FCC being able to do such things is not what Wheeler’s FCC did with that power, but what the next one will do now that it has the same power.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I'll just leave this here...

A valid concern, but the alternative is letting the telcos continue to abuse the power they’ve been given. It’s not as though we have a choice between an awesome consumer friendly regime rife with competition and choice, and an abusive government regulator. The choice is between letting the FCC write the rules, and letting AT&T, Verizon et al do it. I’ll take the FCC, along with the risks that entails.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I'll just leave this here...

Oh, I agree. I just have a minor compulsive tendency when it comes to explaining a viewpoint which I think is being missed, whether I agree with that viewpoint or not.

Although the general principle of being careful what powers you grant to people whose policies you like because you can’t be sure you’ll like their successors’ policies is valid, I’m not at all sure the case at hand is a good example of that. In particular, I’m not sure the powers granted to the FCC in the net-neutrality fight thus far are ones which are much subject to abuse in ways I’d find problematic, no matter who is able to wield them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 I'll just leave this here...

It is definitely a valid viewpoint, but the thing that the anti-FCC folks who comment here is – what instead? Free market doesn’t exist here, allowing these companies to trade unregulated will clearly be a disaster. So, if not the FCC, then what?

I’ve never seen an answer to this, only vague paranoid ramblings and the assertion that monopolistic abusers will act like saints if only non-existent competition were allowed to abuse rules in the same way as they would.

I don’t think the concerns about the FCC’s rules are being missed, it’s just that without a valid realistic alternative it’s still demonstrably the best option.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'll just leave this here...

I’m sure we’re pretty fond of some kinds of regulation. Meat inspection, net neutrality, electrical standards, what your neighbor can or cannot acceptably do with drones, and so on.

We could use some additional agencies we don’t have, say a public advocate of the public domain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'll just leave this here...

How many times does it have to be said?

Regulation only results in capture. America’s manufactures foods and label requirements are a fucking damn joke. The FDA is a paid whore for the industry, the FCC created the telco monopolies, FEMA is a logistics fuckup, EPA is completely political and also creates environmental disasters it is supposed to stop.

Government was created to secure our liberty, instead it destroys it and you cheer it on because you need it to protect you from yourself, your insipid ignorance of life, and your contagious cowardice of terrorists… instead of just protecting your liberty and a free market.

The government does only 1 thing now, creates a shell game of liberty where the person with the most money gets a staggering advantage over the little guy and you clowns keep begging for more. It like you want your poverty and second class citizen status.

We have 535 public fucking advocates already. Why are you so stupid as to ask for more? Take care of business there first! They are largely ignored and are a bigger menace than BushObamaTrump can ever be!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'll just leave this here...

Regulatory Capture is, yes, a hazard. As is Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

And yes, we need a better way to combat these eventualities than we have.

But to say we shouldn’t regulate anything is to say the United States has failed, because the experiment of unregulated (or insufficiently regulated) capitalism has only proven to be worse.

Or maybe you like child labor and toxified water tables and cell phones that auto-immolate.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'll just leave this here...

So – anarchy then .. and just how is this going to work out?

Badly, as all anarchist states were wiped out by foreign invaders. But I’d guess you won’t even get there, because anarchy happens to be much more difficult to achieve than democracy.

Or maybe you’re just talking about chaos and the rule of the mighty. That will work of course.

DannyB (profile) says:

criminalizes illegal protests aimed at causing economic damage

You mean causing economic damage such as Trump publicly saying that the NY Times is failing. Saying this can have an effect on its stock price, whether true or not. But its worse when this is said just to punish a news organization, whatever you might think of them, for exercising their rights. Maybe Trump should have consequences for this type of behavior? But, then I suppose he could just pardon himself.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

I don’t want to name names here, but a certain President-elect has called for everyone to boycott Apple until it gives in to the FBI over encryption. He’s also called for boycotts of Starbucks, Macy’s, Univision, Mexico, Oreos, Fox News, and Glenfiddich scotch over things like supporting the wrong tennis player and changing a cup design.

All I’m saying is that given the stock market roller coaster ride after the election, perhaps Senator Ericksen is a visionary for calling him an "economic terrorist."

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

I suppose the upside is as law enfarcement generally initiates actual disruption, they can have disruption anywhere, abuse demonstrators, plus charge them with yet another crime.

I pretty much smell DAPL here, more so than Starbucks, but yeah. It’s already like the weekend-jihadi zone Afghanistan was with Al Qaeda for random LEOs from all over, assaulting people on land they have no jurisdiction over. The perfect excuse for another ridiculous and draconian (and probably selectively enforced) law. What could be better?

Anonymous Coward says:

– Timely measure criminalizes illegal protests aimed at causing economic damage
Um, no need to criminalize ILLEGAL protests when by definition they are already criminal acts!

– Applies to unlawful disruption of transportation and commerce
Um, again, if something is unlawful its already illegal, no need for some new law!

– Allows treble damages against funders and organizers
So can I sue the republican party for causing economic damage to me? They already wasted some of my tax dollars talking about how they want to make illegal things illegal.

ECA (profile) says:


So if a company creates a Placebo product,
Sells it as a real Cure/Fix/???
You cant STOP them??

If a company takes 100 metro stores and Fires everyone..
Only to open 1 MEGA store with 1/50 the employed people, leases, and bills…AND NOT 1 penny to Raise Wages..
ECONOMY include Employees..
If you dont HIRE people, People CANT BUY things, If they CANT BUY THINGS, the Store looses money..
So, NOT hiring people causes Economic problems??

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Name that economic terrorist activity

So, economic terrorism, would that include NOT watching NFL games? If you don’t watch your a terrorist, intent upon depriving over paid ego maniacs of their livelihood, not to mention the worthless corporate entities that get taxpayers to build temples to their cause, just before they move out of town.

Then there is ESPN, the economic entity that makes its living on displaying the antics of overpaid ego maniacs, and currently going down for the count because economic terrorist are failing to subscribe.

Oh, and don’t forget the cable companies. Chord cutting is economic terrorism. That Internet thingy with all of its streaming is just not cutting it from an economic standpoint. The content controllers are losing control of their content and feel economically depressed, or is that just depressed?

How about civil asset forfeiture, if we stop allowing the police to legally rob people of their money and possessions (which might be involved in economic activities) it would prevent those agencies from spending that money on things they don’t really need and shouldn’t have. Economic terrorist of the highest order, maybe worth quadruple damages.

Of course we need to include the legal system. What would we do with a bunch of unemployed lawyers? Slowing down the governments attack on citizens, for no good reason or no reason at all, would empty out the for profit prisons and bring our economy to a grinding, screeching halt.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is what happens when road start getting blocked

What do people expect when they start holding interstate roads hostage and damage hundreds if not thousands of people in the process?

It will have some bad repercussions also, but I have had enough of businesses being destroyed by a dozen idiots and interstates shutdown by a group of fools.

Anonymous Coward says:

The greatest act of economic terrorism in recent history

was the 2008 AIG securities insurance scam. CEO’s of half a dozen banks were aware of it, were culpable, and abetted the crime. Which was essentially a simple insurance fraud, concealed under a cacophony of securities transactions.

Many were called before congress. Some were twitching and licking their lips they were so high on cocaine during their testimony.

The terrorist plot was probably engineered by a former executive of AIG, who had been appointed to the cabinet of George W. Bush. It is reasonable to infer that the appointment was as a result of outside pressure to make POTUS culpable, so as to suppress any real criminal investigation.

The fallout was international. The terrorists should have been brought before the Hague. But congress just shook its head, put out it’s greasy palm for its share, and then kicked back a billion dollars of tax payer funding to the terrorists.

In the aftermath, banks that were responsibly managed (Wachovia) before the crash, were acquired using taxpayer supplied dollars and folded into the insolvent banks (Wells FuckedMo) who had been the jihadists in the plot. That is how the big banks balanced their books. After paying CEO bonus’s of course.

The unholy trinity of cabal news did it’s part with propaganda and misdirection. They insured there would be no uniform view of how a financial rape on this scale happened. (again, it was a simple insurance fraud) By keeping everyone’s fingers pointing in different directions the trinity functioned as the “cleanup man” during the heist. And they were successful in diffusing what may have otherwise been a violent national populist response.

So I’m glad that Ericksen discovered a new term. (Yay reading!) But perhaps he should consider what it means before using it as a catchall for all the people he doesn’t like. Or more to the point, maybe the guy should actually return to school for a few years before being let loose on anything more complex than say, comic books.

Protesters are terrorists? Such legislation is self fulfilling. I am split between fighting people like this, (because they are sandbagging the Constitution) and supporting them because at some point, you just have to let it burn.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.”

I worked for my money, it belongs to me, and so I have every right to make an informed decision before making a purchase with my dollar. That’s exactly what free speech is intended to protect.

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