sharia law

Ann Kenda / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

I arrived at Riverside Park in Batesville where white nationalists were gathering for an anti-Shariah law demonstration, and took a few minutes to gather my thoughts and nerve before I approached them.  I had never covered a race rally before and wasn't sure what to expect.  It felt unpredictable.

"This probably isn't the safest part of your job, is it?" said Jordan Gould, one of the day's counterprotesters, who offered to jump in his car and lead me to the other side of the White River when my GPS couldn't find the way. My colleague, KASU-89.1 news director Johnathan Reaves, stayed behind to cover the counter-protest, and it was my job to obtain interviews from Billy Roper and his band of white nationalists.

The task  was to obtain both some audio and some personal understanding of the rally members' agenda.  My guide wished me luck and left, and I took a few minutes to observe the white nationalists before approaching them.

Ann Kenda / Arkansas Public Media

A wall of police officers stood between two groups of protestors at Riverside Park on the banks of the White River in Batesville on Saturday afternoon, as the groups hurled insult after insult at each other over race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation.

“Our position is that we are here to make sure everyone gets their voice, everybody has the right to free speech, and that nobody gets hurt,” said Police Chief Alan Cockrill.

Cockrill called in all available help, including auxiliary police officers, after news broke that the well-known Billy Roper, a local leader in the white nationalist movement, planned an anti-Sharia law rally at the pavilion at the 

park. 

Bobby Ampezzan/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

A bill that makes no mention of Sharia Law nonetheless sparked an intense debate Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee on the need for Arkansas to gird itself against such foreign influence in its courts.

It passed out of the Committee on a voice vote along party lines. It goes now before the full House.