LITTLE ROCK – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today condemned the state’s response to peaceful demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Bradley Blackshire. In a letter to Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, the organization warned against unconstitutional efforts to restrict First Amendment rights or intimidate peaceful protesters with a militarized police response.
Organizers protesting the shooting death of Bradley Blackshire at the hands of police were denied an application to use state facilities and equipment while they demonstrated at the State Capitol, and instead were met by a heavily militarized police presence. Arkansas Capitol Police also took the highly unusual step of locking the state capitol, denying protesters the ability to speak with their elected officials or use the building’s facilities, which are meant for public use. In addition, a member of the press was unnecessarily detained and questioned by the police during the demonstration.
“Bradley Blackshire’s death is another tragic example of the need for reforms that will bring greater accountability, transparency and safety to policing in Arkansas,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas legal director. “Instead of working to build trust with the communities they serve, state and local police responded to these peaceful demonstrators with an overwhelming show of force and locked them out of the State Capitol. These extreme measures raise serious constitutional concerns and reflect a fundamental disregard for the First Amendment rights of the citizens they have sworn to serve.”