Green Party Candidate in Arkansas Arrested for "Profanity" on Protest Sign

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Brian Barnett, a candidate for a state house district seat, arrested for sign calling Republican opponent, a town alderman, "chickenshit" for refusing to let him into campaign debate. 

The Daily Citizen reports

While mudslinging is a common activity in some election races, a Green Party candidate has apparently turned to fertilizer in his bid for office.

Brian Barnett, 32, was arrested by Searcy Police midday Friday for refusing to cover profanity on a political sign he was holding on a street corner. Barnett opposes Republican Kyle Reeves and Democrat Monte Betts in the race for House District 50, a seat currently held by David Evans, in the Nov. 4 general election. Evans is term-limited. Reeves is a Searcy alderman.

Just before noon Friday, Barnett was standing at the northwest corner of Beebe-Capps Expressway and South Main, near a former feed store containing numerous Reeves signs, holding a sign. The sign's four lines said, "Debate Brian! Chicken s***; 1. Kyle Reeves; 2. Monte Betts." Barnett could be seen speaking to passersby as they rolled down their windows. Nearby workmen said they did not notice Barnett.

At 11:37 a.m., Searcy Patrolman Tyrel Johnson arrived and spoke to Barnett about the sign.

"You can probably get away with saying he's chicken, but since he's an alderman and a member of the city council, you can't," Johnson told Barnett. "That word is not acceptable."

Barnett explained the sign to Johnson, saying it was designed to call attention to the refusal of Reeves and Betts to debate him.

"When you call someone chicken s*** that means they're scared," Barnett said.

When Sergeant Tom McGee arrived, the three went next door to a tire shop and Barnett could be heard offering to change the sign. Within minutes, however, Barnett was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, apparently for refusing to obey an officer.

"I asked him on four occasions to remove those letters from that sign," McGee said. "He did remove the 'i' but I asked him to remove the entire word."

Barnett said on his first attempt to change the sign he changed the 'i' to an "L," and when the officers were still insistent, Barnett said he changed it to an "X."

"Freedom of speech is saying something that someone might not like," Barnett shouted to a Daily Citizen reporter while handcuffed and being led to a patrol car, where he was placed in the back seat.

Within minutes, Barnett was taken out of the car, given a citation and was allowed to go free. The sign was returned to Barnett and he was told he could stand where he chose with the sign. Barnett, confused as to why he was allowed to continue displaying the altered sign, now showing an "X" over the "i," was told the matter would be explained to him further at his Nov. 20 court date in White County District Court, Searcy Division.

"I believe I was harassed," Barnett said. "The officer said, 'A city councilmen has disagreed with your sign. They were even telling me that I could not say something that offends someone else."

However, a police spokesman said Reeves did not call the department until he heard of the incident from a Daily Citizen reporter after Barnett was arrested. Officers responded to a caller who said Barnett's sign contained profanity and that they were concerned that Barnett was standing too close to the street. After citing Barnett, McGee cautioned Barnett about standing too close to the street.

"He didn't comply enough," said Terri Lee, police spokesman. "The 'i' was crossed out with a mark that looked like an "I." It wasn't enough. They [the officers] could still read it and they wanted it where it wasn't offensive to anyone."

The Green Party stands for clean air, Barnett said, and he was opposed to the Wall Street bail-out. Barnett, a resident of Meadowlake Apartments who said he was formerly a hospital telemetry technician who is now a full-time campaigner, was asked if he took a leave of absence from his job or was fired.
Thanks to the Agitiator

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