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Not a Good Look (Editorial)

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On June 14, Hot Springs police arrested and handcuffed Bentonville lawyer Jen Standerfer in the Hot Springs Convention Center after she collected two signatures for ballot measures that would strengthen government accountability.

The incident took place at the Arkansas Bar Association’s annual meeting, and Standerfer, one of the founders of the nonpartisan Arkansas Citizens for Transparency, was released without charges. 

Visit Hot Springs, which runs the Convention Center, said that soliciting, including petitioning, protesting and picketing, is not allowed on the premises. Standerfer, who was a registered attendee of the Bar Association meeting, denied she was soliciting signatures, saying she only provided the ballot measure petitions when people asked for them directly. 

We honestly aren’t sure what the law allows in this case. But Little Rock lawyer John Tull, who represents Arkansas Citizens for Transparency and is an expert in the First Amendment, had questions that included whether carrying something like a petition constitutes solicitation. In addition is the issue of political speech, such as carrying a petition, which is protected under the First Amendment. 

We are, however, sure of this: It’s not a good look when police arrest and handcuff in a public building a lawyer who’s advocating governmental transparency.

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