Little Rock TV station KARK invents a “clash” at peaceful protest

Blue Arkansas draws attention to a case of what they call media sensationalism. The Little Rock TV station KARK said in a report of a protest rally against Republican policies which took place on July 22, at the occasion of a Republican meeting on a river boat:

That [debt crisis] debate floated down the Arkansas River where liberals turned out to demonstrate at a republican leadership summit on the Arkansas Queen. Things almost got ugly on the banks of the river when a brief clash broke out between demonstrators and North Little Rock police.

The rally in Riverside Park started peaceably enough. Protesters carried signs that said things like “Hands off Social Security” and “We are not expendable.”

The KARK video clip, as well as the clips posted at Blue Arkansas, does not show any evidence of a “clash” with police or of things getting “ugly”, unless citizens exerting their First Amendment rights by peacefully assembling, holding signs and chanting slogans are considered “ugly” by the KARK reporter. There is a brief scene of a policeman talking to a protester but no “clash” whatsoever. What seems to have happened was that the North Little Rock police tried to impose a so-called “free speech” zone on protesters. That very expression is of course Orwellian since it really signifies the curtailing of free speech. Apparently the police wanted to protect Republican politicians from hearing what their constituents had to say to them. A participant, Samuel Kauffman, has called the police action “outrageous and undemocratic”:

It goes against the very nature of our Republic, and it violates the purpose of police and government. The entire group should have been allowed to assemble peacefully anywhere in the public park, as the Constitution encourages.

He further notes that “After asking for an officer’s badge number, the police and Bureau stopped their unconstitutional harassment.”

I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the event but the video evidence provided by KARK itself clearly contradicts its narrative of a “clash” and “things getting ugly”. Instead of reporting the facts, the TV station made something up that didn’t happen. It did indeed engage in sensationalist reporting, as Blue Arkansas alleges, but even more troubling is a tendency to defer to authority and malign citizens for exerting political rights. Whatever happened to the ideal of journalism speaking truth to power and giving ordinary citizens a voice?

KARK should publicly apologize for its misconduct and give those protesters an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

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