The ACLU of Arkansas issued the following statement regarding Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of Senate Bill 550, which would have made “mass picketing” a Class A misdemeanor. SB550 is part of a wave of anti-protest bills that have swept the country, drawing condemnation from civil rights advocates and even experts at the United Nations.
“Governor Hutchinson did the right thing by vetoing this unconstitutional anti-protest bill,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. “We’re also grateful to the many Arkansans who joined us in speaking out against this heavy-handed attempt to restrict the freedom of assembly and criminalize constitutionally-protected speech. This proposal to prosecute people who take to the streets to speak their minds is part of a dangerous trend that the ACLU will fight at every turn. The General Assembly should let this veto stand.”
In his veto letter, Gov. Hutchinson wrote that SB 550 is “vague, overbroad and will have the effect of restricting both free speech and the right to assemble.” The term “mass picketing” was defined as “the assembly of persons in the use of pickets or demonstrations at or near a business, school or private facility.”
The ACLU of Arkansas had urged the Governor to veto the bill because of its clear violation of the right to freedom of speech and the right to assemble as guaranteed by the First Amendment.