Unfortunately, Arkansans are no strangers to Senator Tom Cotton's blatant disregard for our Constitutional rights. But his latest plan is simply racist and cruel. 

Senator Cotton recently announced his intention to introduce a bill with the clear attempt to suppress one of our oldest and most cherished traditions: the right to protest injustice and make our voices heard. Specifically, this bill would deny coronavirus-related unemployment funds to people convicted of federal offenses during a protest. 

Once again, Senator Cotton’s callous disregard for constitutional rights is matched only by his cruelty. By threatening protesters with punishment, this bill is a clear attempt to suppress one of our oldest and most cherished traditions: the right to protest injustice and make our voices heard.

After advocating the use of military force to quell protests, Senator Cotton now wants to take food out of his own constituents’ mouths by cutting off unemployment benefits that have been a lifeline for families across the state. The vast majority of protests across the country have been peaceful, but Senator Cotton would rather inflame divisions to advance his own political agenda than bring people together to heal and work for change.

It is also no mystery why such calls for harsh crackdowns were glaringly absent when white supremacists marched on Charlottesville or when armed protesters took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon. By advancing this bill and calling protesters “thugs” Senator Cotton has reminded us what systemic racism looks like, and why all of us must continue to work to combat anti-Black racism in all its forms. Dissent is – and always has been – patriotic, and the ACLU of Arkansas will continue to stand with all those demanding justice and an end to the scourge of police violence against Black communities once and for all.