Protests in Arizona
High school students gather in front of the Arizona Capitol in protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as the president of the United States in Phoenix, Nov. 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

The Arizona Senate approved a bill Wednesday that expands police power to arrest anyone involved in a protest that is likely to turn bad. Supporters of the bill said it would deter violent riots and punish anyone who pays people to join protests.

All 17 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill while all 13 Democrats opposed the measure. The bill will now go to the House.

Under Senate Bill 1142, participating in or helping to organize a demonstration that turns into a riot will be seen as an offense. This is likely to lead to criminal racketeering charges. The bill also adds rioting to the organized crime statutes and allows authorities to charge anyone who was not involved in the actual riot. Furthermore, the measure would allow prosecutors to seize a person's assets and impose additional criminal charges on them.

Opponents of the bill said it would curb free speech rights and lead to the persecution of innocent people.

“When people want to express themselves as a group during a time of turmoil, during a time of controversy, during a time of high emotions, that’s exactly when people gather as a community,” Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said. “Sometimes they yell, sometimes they scream, sometimes they do go too far.’’

"This is a total perversion of the RICO process, the racketeering process, and I see major Constitutional issues down the line," Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said. "I don't think this is going to do anything but get us into more lawsuits."

However, Republicans cited recent protests against President Donald Trump and alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos that turned violent.

"I have been heartsick at what is going on in our country, what young people are being encouraged to do," Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake reportedly said. "And there's a difference between a protest and a riot. And what we have been watching is riots."

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, also defended the bill, saying that it would only target specific group of protesters.

“You now have a situation where you have full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder,” Kavanagh said. “A lot of them are ideologues, some of them are anarchists. But this stuff is all planned.’’