There really is a Riot Act. Bill Barr is anxious to read it to you. Then he’ll search your computer.

If you happened to post any kind of statement in support of the George Floyd protests, guess what? You are in violation of the Anti-Riot Act of 1968, a federal statute. You may not be charged but you could be investigated. Please immediately send your phone and computer to the Attorney General so he can have a look at what other nefarious activities you’ve been up to.

Last Saturday, Bill Barr held a press conference about the Floyd protests, claiming they were “planned, organized, and driven by far left extremist groups and anarchic groups using Antifa-like tactics.” He vowed to hunt down these homegrown terrorists. One of the tools at his disposal, which he referenced, was the Anti-Riot Act of 1968, an extraordinarily unconstitutional law passed by Congress shortly after the findings of the Kerner Commission were released. The Commission had been tasked by Pres. Lyndon Johnson to examine the underlying causes of the previous summer’s nationwide riots.

The stated intent of the law was to stop riots before they could start. The actual effect of the law is to stop any kind of protest before it can even take place. It even criminalizes planning or discussing a possible protest action that potentially could result in rioting. No actual riot has to occur. 

The bill was sponsored by the leading Senate racist of the time, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. He offered it as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1968. As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up.

In an open letter after it was passed, leading public intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Susan Sontag, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Norman Mailer wrote that “Potentially, this law is the foundation for a police state in America.” The law is still on the books and therefore still holds the potential for a police state.

The constitutionality of the law has not been tested as far as the Supreme Court. Lower courts have reached differing conclusions about that question in the few cases that have been brought under the law. The problem is that with the law on the books, authorities can use a possible violation of the law as a justification to carry out a fishing expedition “investigation” of activist organizers.

The investigations into former Beatles member John Lennon’s political activities were carried out in just this manner, under the Anti-Riot Act.

You can find a lot more history and background about the law in this excellent article at the Washington Post. I highly recommend you read the article before writing to your Representative and Senators to tell them to repeal it.

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