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Protests held in Fayetteville over controversial 'bathroom bill,' LEARNS Act

Both the Arkansas LEARNS Act and the 'bathroom bill' have some Fayetteville residents protesting for rights that they say are being disregarded.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Wednesday evening, protestors held a rally at the Washington county courthouse against the LEARNS Act and Senate Bill 270 known as "the bathroom bill".

"The reason we're out here today is specifically because both senate 270 and senate bill 294 is going to be heard this week and voted on, so we're trying to put pressure on legislators before those bills get out of committee," said protest organizer Maximiliano Calabotta. 

On top of that, organizers say the "bathroom bill" will hit their community the hardest.

"I won't lie the last few weeks have been very difficult. I've heard a lot of worries from a lot of folks and I've kind of taken that in and it's been difficult for me as well to see a lot of really harmful rhetoric that's been going on in our state legislature right now," said Evelyn Rios Stafford. 

"Senate bill 270 is important because it impacts trans people's ability to use public restrooms. Everyone deserves to use a public restroom that matches their gender identity, it's safer for us that way to be able to use a public restroom that we choose," Calabotta explained. 

The LEARNS act places expansive restrictions on young students' education about gender identity or sexual orientation.

One protester, Gabby Sandoval said, "I do a lot of work with the trans youth in the area and I've seen firsthand how the extremely detrimental mental health effects that bills like this have on the youth that I work with." 

Dozens of people from all different ages and backgrounds came together to support one another with hopes of stopping what they call attacks on trans people in the state. The protesters' main goal was to get lawmakers to vote no on senate bill 270.

"I want legislators in Arkansas to realize that they need to take more care of the way they're crafting these bills because these bills are affecting real people, they're affecting me in my life, they're affecting my community and they're affecting my constituents," Rios Stafford said. 

"In the state of Arkansas, I think there's a lot of bigger issues we should be focusing on in our educational system, within our mental healthcare system and the fact that we're spending energy worrying about where people are going to the bathroom is just really disappointing to me," Sandoval said.

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