Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News has teamed with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to add “domestic terrorism” to the state’s list of criminal charges. Her bill, HB 1601, would make it illegal in certain cases for people associated with domestic terrorist groups to hold a meeting, reports the Daily Press.
Price refused to comment for the Daily Press story, but AG spokesman Michael Kelly said the office has been working on the bill since the United the Right rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, where counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed when Nazi sympathizer James Field Jr. drove a vehicle into a crowd. Field has been charged with first-degree murder.
“Obviously that was a real wake-up call and a moment that made it crystal clear that Virginia needs to take seriously the threat posed by extremist organizations and especially white supremacist organizations,” said Kelly. “We want to make sure that local law enforcement and state law enforcement have the tools to keep Virginians safe from that kind of violence.”
But I can’t help but wonder if the AG’s office is more concerned about violence stemming from some sources than others. The “domestic terrorism” charge applies to acts perpetrated because of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, or that [are] committed for the purpose of restraining an individual from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States.”
Those qualifiers explicitly protect minorities against Nazis, Klansmen and other right-wing extremists, which is fine. But does it apply to Antifa or other groups that use violence to shut down the objects of left-wing hatred and loathing such as, say, rallies of Trump supporters or conservative speakers on college campuses? Presumably, Trump supporters enjoy a constitutional right to freedom of assembly, so Antifa violence might warrant a domestic terrorism charge. But does a conservative speaker have a constitutional right to deliver a speech on a college campus? Much trickier question.
I’m not clear why such a law is needed in the first place. The City of Charlottesville has charged Fields with first degree murder. Does the Commonwealth of Virginia require another law to put him away for the rest of his life? I can’t shake the suspicion that Price’s bill, if enacted into law, will be applied selectively against those whose political beliefs the Attorney General or his successors find most odious.There are currently no comments highlighted.