Arkansas Town Makes Peaceful Assembly Illegal

Political cronyism in American politics is nothing new. It has been a problem since our country’s birth, and while there have been steps taken to limit the practice over the years, it still persists in one form or another.

This is the case in the Arkansas town of Gould, where town councilmen were fed up with one activist group meeting with the Mayor, and having supposedly massive influence over him. So, in an effort to erase this influence, the council decided to pass a bill that banned the group from talking to the mayor. Unfortunately, the bill was so broad, it can only be seen as an all-out attack on the Mayor’s freedom of assembly. The law went further than just banning this one group — it bans “any groups from forming if members discuss the town without council approval.” Essentially, thanks to this new law, you can’t even meet with a group of your friends in your house to discuss the goings on in the town without government permission to do so, which is a clear violation of one’s First Amendment right of peaceful assembly for whatever reason.

This law doesn’t just apply to people within the town limits, either; if you’re caught discussing town matters at all, regardless of location, you can be prosecuted for it. The measure is aimed at the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, a non-partisan political group that regularly discusses issues with the mayor, Earnest Hash Jr., and the town council.

The farming town, which has a population of only 1,100, is facing a $300,000 revenue shortfall, and negotiations on how to close the gap have gotten particularly turbulent. This new law was passed in an effort to relieve friction between town officials and interest groups, but it instead created even more headaches for the embattled town legislature. The town council’s anti-group ordinance resembles nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab. In fact, when the town’s attorney tried to protest this law, he was almost fired by the council for dissent.

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