Arkansas Civil Rights

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The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Friday to give final legislative approval to a bill that ends the official recognition of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day. The House passed SB519 on a 66-11 vote, with five members voting present and 18 not voting.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

After several years and multiple failed attempts, a renewed effort to remove Arkansas’s celebration of Robert E. Lee from the state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is headed for a final vote. An Arkansas House committee advanced the Senate-approved bill Tuesday evening on a voice vote. Arkansas is one of three states to mark King and Lee on the same day.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Martin Luther King Jr. Day would stand alone, separated from Arkansas’s dual observance with Robert E. Lee, under a proposal advanced by a Senate committee. On a voice vote Thursday, legislation passed to move the observance of Lee to October. Governor Asa Hutchinson led the cause to disjoin the Civil Rights leader and Confederate general.

“The fact is celebrating Martin Luther King on the same day as a Confederate general gives Arkansas a sense that you make a choice and this choice diminishes the contributions of Dr. King,” Hutchinson told committee members.

Governor Supports Bill To Split MLK and Lee Days

Mar 2, 2017

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is endorsing a proposal to end the dual recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee on the same day each year.

He took to the lectern Wednesday to say that, as Americans celebrate the slain Civil Rights icon, residents of the state are presented with a choice.

“That choice that is there, it divides us as Arkansans and as a nation,” Hutchinson said.

Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore (file photo).
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

The tumult in the Little Rock School District, which is under state control, continues in the new year with plans to close or re-purpose four schools. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Superintendent Mike Poore about the future of the district and the legitimacy of state control.

Topics also include: a special election to continue a tax, the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, the impact to charter schools in the district, and the return of local control.

Last week Little Rock School District  Superintendent, Michael Poore, announced four school closings. Meanwhile, Dr. Anika Whitfield of the community group Save Our Schools thinks the outcry would be louder if people didn't fear their job or school would be the next in line for cuts.

“Some of the teachers and some of the parents at other schools....I believe it’s not that they don’t necessarily care, I sense a fear of 'if we speak up or speak out it could be our school next.'”

Several of the state’s top politicians – all of whom are white - celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the predominately African-American St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock. Governor Asa Hutchinson recounted first seeing King on television in his youth and indirectly rebuffed President-elect Trump’s disparagement of a different, still living Civil Rights icon.

Governor Hutchinson, a Republican from the small town of Gravette in northwest Arkansas, recounted how as a junior high school student he first came to learn of King.

The Confederate soldiers monument at the state Capitol.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

'Heritage not hate' is an oft heard refrain from Arkansans working to protect the state's dual observance of Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. But throughout 2015 and 2016 long-established heritage groups, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, overlapped and interacted with modern-day Southern, white nationalist groups like the League of the South on numerous occasions.

State Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) testifying to end the joint observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee. (2015 file photo)
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Heading into Arkansas's concurrent observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Robert E. Lee Day some lawmakers were predicting this could be the last year for the joint state holiday. But despite the backing of the state's Republican governor, no one has stepped forward to carry the legislation.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The office of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Wednesday (Jan. 4) asked a federal judge to issue a temporary stay on a case before the U.S. District Court in Harrison questioning the constitutionality of the state’s landlord tenant rules, or wait until the upcoming legislation session is over before moving forward with court hearings.

Ted Bonner
KATV, Channel 7 News

The Arkansas NAACP and several residents are calling for the resignation of a school board member in eastern Arkansas after photos surfaced of him in blackface while holding a sign referring to the Black Lives Matter movement.

NAACP members and others demanded Ted Bonner's resignation Monday during a Blevins School Board meeting. But the board's president, Justice West, says there's no mechanism for removing Bonner, who has refused to resign. Bonner has two years left in his term.

A national trucking company has agreed to pay $260,000 to settle discrimination complaints by four Sikh truckers who were denied jobs for refusing drug tests that violated their religious beliefs.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. reached the settlement being announced Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization that represented the men, says the trucking company required three men to clip their hair for drug samples and required a fourth to remove his turban before providing a urine sample.

Michael Sabbie
Huffington Post

A video has surfaced of an inmate who died at a privately run Texarkana jail more than a year ago. It shows 35- year-old Michael Sabbie, who was pepper sprayed and restrained, repeatedly telling corrections officers that he could not breathe. He died a short time later.

State Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock).
Pulaski County Sheriff's Office

Democratic state lawmaker and civil rights attorney John Walker was arrested on Monday for obstructing governmental operations. 

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