Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Rock cracks down on petitioners at Riverfest

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 8:28 PM

MOVE ALONG, 1ST AMENDMENT NOT IN EFFECT TONIGHT: An LR police officer explains to Greg Deckelman, canvasser for the ethics initiative that signature gathering is not allowed on city streets within three or four blocks of Riverfest entrances.
  • Brian Chilson
  • MOVE ALONG, 1ST AMENDMENT NOT IN EFFECT TONIGHT: An LR police officer explains to Greg Deckelman, canvasser for the ethics initiative, that signature gathering is not allowed on city streets within three or four blocks of Riverfest entrances. Here, they are at Markham and Scott in front of Korean gate and LR Chamber of Commerce.

Little Rock government outrage of the day:

When the powers that be don't want petitions signed, petitions will not be signed.

The police force of the city of Little Rock is preventing canvassers for various initiative petitions from gathering signatures on public streets near, but outside, the entrance to gated grounds of Riverfest. David Couch, a lawyer representing the ethics petition gatherers, said police are acting on the orders of Riverfest officials.

Said Couch, "Little Rock police are taking the position that anything that's blocked off is under the control of Riverfest. Riverfest people asked them not to allow them to canvass on those localities." The effect of this is to push canvassers blocks away from entrances and the biggest concentration of people. They can encounter only a trickle of festival goers, such as at 2nd and Cumberland, rather than thousands in front of the River Market on Clinton Ave. three blocks away.

Couch said he was told by an officer, in response to a question, that if canvassers continued to gather signatures they'd be arrested for interfering with governmental operations. The officer said he'd also been asked to stop all canvassers, to get information on each of them and to ask them to stop.

Information on each canvasser? Blocking of petition gathering on an open thoroughfare? Couch thinks it blatantly unconstitutional and so do I. Couch had his encounter in front of the Arkansas Studies Center, where he noted that a street musician, mimes and a preacher were soliciting contributions and other commercial activities were underway. The only thing being prohibited was petition of government.

Couch said calls had been made to Mayor Mark Stodola, who, Couch was told, promised to correct the situation. When canvassers returned to the street, however, a police lieutenant told Couch he knew nothing of any mayoral intervention and said arrests would be made.

I suggest we arrange this: A few hundred people march down to Cumberland and Markham, get some petition forms — preferably from Regnat Populus 2012, but the gas tax, casino proposals, medical marijuana or anything else are OK — and start taking signatures. We'll be sure Brian Chilson is on hand for the photograph of citizens engaged in lawful activity, petitioning their government, being arrested, cuffed and loaded in a paddy wagon. Or maybe a quick legal action for injunctive relief. Irreparable damage to the petition effort has already been done.

I'm so mad I could scream. This city, utterly controlled by a narrow sector of the business establishment, has done it again. Spit on its citizens.

It is hard for me not to believe that this isn't related to the Chamber of Commerce's effort to stifle petitioning for the gas severance tax increase, an effort that has already produced intimidation tactics. I have no idea if communications were made, but the suspicion is hard to resist. Shut them all down, using taxpayer police, and it saves the Chamber a lot of money in sending out hired goons to do the job one by one at a mass event attended by a quarter of a million people. That's only speculation. Unless the city says the 1st Amendment does apply in Little Rock after all, I will presume the worst.

Mayor Stodola, how strong are you? Strong enough to defend the 1st Amendment?

I'll update if I'm able.

Really. Does Riverfest get to decide who walks on blocked-off streets? Because if it decides what speech is legal there, the power is the same.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (43)

Showing 1-43 of 43

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-43 of 43

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Dexter Suggs resigns as Little Rock school superintendent

    This just in from state Education Department: Today, Commissioner Johnny Key reached an agreement with Dr. Dexter Suggs that resulted in Dr. Suggs’ immediate resignation as superintendent of the Little Rock School District.
    • Apr 21, 2015
  • IHOP coming down, but .....

    I always scan the Little Rock City Board for items of interest this week and this one caught my eye: A zoning measure required by a proposal to tear down the IHOP at Markham and University.
    • Apr 30, 2016
  • More legal headaches for Dexter Suggs

    Dexter Suggs may have cleared out his office before the workday began today, but he still has lingering legal matters as defendant in lawsuits against him and the state.
    • Apr 21, 2015

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation