I was at a party when this text started making the rounds:
If you didn’t hear, the LRPD have orders to prevent ALL petitioning at Riverfest; yes thisis HuGe.
Honestly, I thought it had to be bunk when I got it. Apparently not:
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.
Of course Stodola didn’t intervene. He’s a Chamber of Commerce puppet, bought and paid for, and he’s not going to do anything to stop this. Hell, he’s probably the one that gave it the go ahead. This is, of course, all about keeping a few ballot initiatives the Chamber doesn’t want to see passed in November from gaining signitures-Regnat Populus, the severance tax increase, etc. It’s a corporate assault on our constitutional rights, plain and simple.
Little Rock has some city elections around the corner. The time is coming soon when we’ll need to stand up and wrestle the reigns of government out of the hands of the oligarchy that’s running the city, for the good of all Little Rock residents. Little Rock can be a progressive city. We just have to step up and put an end to the rule of the big businesses that have taken over.
Update: Stodola caves. Petition away.