Civil Liberties

Arkansas Town Bans Organizations Lest They Cause 'Discourse'

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Annoyed by criticism from a local political group, the Gould, Arkansas, city council decided to wish it away. Last month it passed an ordinance abolishing the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, which it accused of "causing confusion and discourse among the citizens." It also forbade Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., a member of the irksome group, to meet "any organization in any location," whether "inside or outside Gould city limits," without the city council's permission. For good measure, Gould's legislators declared that "no new organizations shall be allowed to exist in the City of Gould without approval from a majority of the City Council." Nash vetoed all three bills, but last week the city council voted to override him. "I've seen some humdingers," Arkansas Municipal League General Counsel Mark Hayes tells The New York Times, "but never any ordinance like this." Calling the restrictions on freedom of association "blatantly unconstitutional," Nash reports that "for the most part, people are just ignoring them." Councilwoman Sonya Farley "said she would probably vote to rewrite the ordinances with more constitutionally sensitive wording."