Arkansas governor vetoes mass picketing bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a bill that would have criminalized mass picketing, saying it would restrict free speech.              

Hutchinson vetoed the bill on Thursday. It had been passed by both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Trent Garner, defines mass picketing as people assembling for demonstrations at or near a business, school or private facility.              

Under the bill, those found guilty of interfering with people entering their place of employment or blocking access to private residences and public roadways while demonstrating would face jail time and a fine of $2,500.            

The ACLU of Arkansas said Hutchinson did the right thing by vetoing what they call an anti-protest bill.

"This proposal to prosecute people who take to the streets to speak their minds is a part of a dangerous trend that the ACLU will fight at every turn," said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. "The General Assembly should let this veto stand."

Hutchinson says Garner's goal to ensure public safety is admirable, but the measure's vague language would have a "chilling effect on free speech and the right to assemble."

© 2017 Associated Press


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