LITTLE ROCK – The ACLU of Arkansas today condemned Senator Tom Cotton’s plan to introduce a bill that would deny coronavirus-related unemployment funds to people convicted of federal offenses during a protest.

Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, made the following statement: 

“Once again, Senator Tom 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.”