Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Arkansas stating that recent assemblies and protests across the state “have been overtaken by destructive and violent individuals, creating conditions of distress for the citizens and businesses of the state.”
Hutchinson did not issue a press release on the proclamation and did not mention it in his daily press conference on the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement released by the governor’s office, Hutchinson’s Director of Communications Katie Beck said this is a practice to implement when the National Guard is called to action regarding a civil disturbance.
“Earlier today, the Governor signed an executive order to declare a state of emergency in response to recent protests around the state and to establish a unified command between the Arkansas State Police, local law enforcement jurisdictions, the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, and the Arkansas National Guard. This is a normal executive order issued when the National Guard is activated under state control in regard to civil disturbance. Under this executive order, Sheriff Offices and Police Departments maintain command and operational control of their respective jurisdictions.”
His order directs the Arkansas State Police to be the lead agency in coordinating with other local governmental law enforcement groups to “protect civil rights and ensure public safety.”
Several public protests in recent days have begun and been conducted peacefully, while some have led to vandalism and property damage as well as law enforcement assaults on citizens through tear gas. Hutchinson ordered sheriffs’ offices and police departments to maintain control over their operational commands and jurisdictions. He also commanded the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to “engage, deploy and coordinate” resources to protect citizens.
His proclamation also order the Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard to “call and order into active service such portions of the organized militia as he deems necessary to protect life and property.”
This includes taking action to establish “an arming order and employing non-lethal methods” to carry out requests through a Unified Command and ordered by the governor.