'Civil disorder' bill aims to halt radical groups

LEGISLATURE: Measure makes it a crime to train someone to hurt, kill

Jason Hagey; The News Tribune

Olympia, WA - 3/13/02 -State lawmakers are hoping a bill approved this week will help Washington shed its reputation as a good place for anarchists, radical environmentalists and hate groups.

The so-called civil disorder bill that passed the state House unanimously Monday makes it a felony to train someone to hurt or kill someone else, a law already on the books in most Western states.

The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Locke for his signature.

"We're very excited about this," said Rebecca Jacobs of the Anti-Defamation League in Seattle. "This is an important piece of legislation."

Opponents of the measure argued it's unnecessary and could give authorities a new tool to harass militias, anti-government organizations and other unpopular groups.

"I hate to see it," said Dennis Haynes of Poulsbo, a former Libertarian candidate for the state House who testified against the legislation. Haynes, who also is an advocate for low-income people, questioned how the law will be enforced.

"If you hand someone a book (about violence) and they read it, does that make you a trainer?" he asked.

A "civil disorder" as defined by House Bill 2505 is a "public disturbance involving acts of violence that causes an immediate danger of or results in significant injury to the person of any other individual."

It's already a federal crime to train someone to do that, but Washington lacked a state law against it, a gap that proponents of the bill said made the state a popular place for national extremist groups to train their members.

When Oregon- and Idaho-based extremist groups want to train their members, for example, they often cross the border into Vancouver or the Spokane Valley because of the differences in state law, bill supporters said.

Jacobs cited a 1993 case in which heavily armed white supremacists from Idaho were arrested on Interstate 90 on their way to blow up the Tacoma office of the NAACP.

"Had this bill been in effect, once the State Patrol had become aware of the unlawful training activity, they would have been able to arrest those involved," Jacobs told a legislative committee in January.

The bill does not stop people from practicing a civil disobedience, just the training for a violent act, backers said.

"This will give our law enforcement people the ability to investigate," said Rep. Al O'Brien (D-Mountlake Terrace), the bill's sponsor.

O'Brien said the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made it easier to pass the legislation this year.

Mark Muenster, a Vancouver attorney, argued against the bill on behalf of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Existing conspiracy and accomplice laws allow the state to prosecute those who teach violence, Muenster said.

He also was skeptical of the claim that extremist groups view Washington as a safe haven for training camps.

"It's clearly an anti-militia bill, but the question is, are there so many more militias in Washington?"


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