Organization Ban

Published August 29, 2011

The Gould, Arkansas city council has banned a citizens group from “doing business” there and has further decreed “no new organizations shall be allowed to exist in the City of Gould without approval from a majority of the City Council.”

The council banned the Gould Citizens Advisory Council from the city because it was engaging in “discourse” with city officials and other citizens. The council passed the ordinances, the mayor vetoed them, and the council overrode the vetoes.

But there’s this little problem called the First Amendment.

“I’ve seen some humdingers, but never any ordinance like this,” said Mark Hayes, general counsel for the Arkansas Municipal League, an organization for towns and cities.

One council member backing the ordinances said the one banning the citizens’ group “was worded wrong. It wasn’t written to stop people from meeting. It was written to treat everybody fairly.”

The mayor isn’t backing down. “Technically, what I’m doing I guess is illegal,” he told The New York Times. “But if I’m going to get arrested for meeting with citizens or letting them form their own groups, that’s a pretty good reason to go to jail.”

Source: Robbie Brown, “Arkansas Town Draws a Line on Clubs,” The New York Times, July 19, 2011