Arkansas Governor Vetoes Mass Picketing Bill

Apr 7, 2017

File photo from 2014 of fast food workers demonstrating for higher pay outside a McDonald's on Broadway Ave. in Little Rock. Demonstrators like these, who blocked traffic on a public roadway, would have face would have faced stiffer penalties under a bill that Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed Thursday.
Credit Chris Hickey / KUAR News

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.

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."