Alderman Says She Is “Ashamed” Of Audience, Prompting Boos And Yelling

Photo courtesy of the City of Fayetteville.

Photo courtesy of the City of Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) – The Fayetteville City Council meeting was interrupted Tuesday night after an impromptu argument broke out between a booing crowd and one of the aldermen who said she was “ashamed” of the audience.

Spectators overwhelmingly spoke out against an ordinance proposed by the council that would create a new position to uphold anti-discriminatory civil rights in the city. The proposed ordinance also would ban several discriminatory actions, the ordinance states.

Few locals spoke out in favor of the proposal, prompting city councilmember Sarah Marsh to urge more victims of discrimination to come forward, noting the large number of residents who spoke out against the proposal.

“I am ashamed there is so much darkness in the heart of this community,” Marsh told the crowd, after which a chorus of boos rang out.

The alderman went on to say she saw people who otherwise might be in favor of the proposal leave because of “hateful statements” made by audience members. A member of the crowd asked her which statements were hateful and how she knew that is why they left, to which Marsh responded, “I could see it in their faces. I am outraged.”

Several members of the crowd yelled to the alderman that she was basically calling them racists. Others claimed she was being anti-Christian. Mayor Lioneld Jordan, who was chairing the meeting, had to bang his gavel several times and pleaded with the crowd to settle down.

The interruption came after a two hour discussion for which dozens of local residents showed up to speak about an ordinance proposed by Alderman Matthew Petty. That ordinance would create a civil rights administrator, who would be able to use the city’s police powers to ensure “all persons within the city have equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations,” the proposal states.

The amended ordinance must be read three times by the council before it can be approved. Aldermen on Tuesday night unanimously approved the second reading of the proposal.

Andy Wilson, executive pastor at Cross Church, said the proposed ordinance would make it more difficult for local churches to freely conduct outreach programs, although he did not specifically mention how the ordinance would conflict with church programs.

“I believe it’s dangerous against our First Amendment freedoms,” Wilson said.

Several other church leaders expressed similar concerns, saying the provision would seemingly single out religious organizations. One section of the ordinance states it shall be unlawful for business establishments to post or print materials which indicate a person’s patronage of or presence at the business is unwelcome or undesirable.

City attorney Kit Williams suggested Tuesday night the council should consider striking that section from the ordinance, noting it may be seen as prior restraint against First Amendment rights. The section was amended out of the proposed ordinance by a unanimous vote from aldermen.

After hearing public concerns, amendments were suggested to the proposal, including a change noting places of worship would not be compelled to open up their sanctuaries to groups or events whose interests and beliefs do not align with those places of worship.

A representative for the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology said she does not believe the ordinance constricts First Amendment rights. Instead, it supports anti-discriminatory measures meant to protect citizens who otherwise may not be helped, she said.

The large crowd at the meeting was overwhelmingly against the proposal, with only a few speakers declaring their support for the amended ordinance.

The proposal states it would ban business establishments from discriminating against people based on real or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, disability and veteran status.

The proposed ordinance also bans discrimination measures while employing a person or conducting a housing or real estate transaction.

The proposed civil rights administrator position may use the city’s police powers to enforce the ordinance, if it passes, according to City Council documents.

Assistant City Attorney Blake Pennington wrote a memo to the council which states there “is no specific Arkansas statute expressly authorizing a municipality to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance.” The state Legislature, though, has authorized cities to use their legislative and police powers to enforce local statues as long as they do not conflict with state law, the memo states.

Pennington cites another state law that allows cities to publish new bylaws and ordinances which “provide for the safety, preserve the health, promote the prosperity and improve the morals, order, comfort and convenience” of the people in those cities.

49 comments

    • Jason

      That is why the supposed cesspool of Arkansas is the most prosperous. All liberal areas of Arkansas carry the rest. The poorest counties of Arkansas are conservative.

      • Kevin

        yes all those minimum wage service jobs that support all the brats that go to U of A are so prosperous.

      • Jason

        Kevin you prove my point. Education is the key. Its not the minimum wage jobs boosting NWA. Its all the law, Doctor, and upper level business positions available to those educated at the UofA. Reality shows education increases the area. Unfortunate for you education leads to thinking. I look at the most prosperous areas of Arkansas and they all have centers of education. NWA – UofA. Little Rock – UALR.Fort Smith – UAFS. Jonesboro – ASU. To just name a few. The most prosperous areas of Arkansas have EDUCATION. The poorest parts of the state shun education.

      • Kevin

        you can have a community of the most highly educated people in the world but if you don’t manufacture, make, grow, or create something then you basically have a weak economy made up of passing around money obama borrows from china.

      • Kevin

        If you have attended college and received a degree you should know anyhow 85% of the classes are BS. Its a money making scheme for I believe you liberals refer to them as one percenters.

      • Jason

        How funny. I enjoy you throw Obama into the mix. Each of the locations I mentioned have been leaders in Arkansas regardless of the party of the President. They were leaders under Republican and Democratic presidents. Education is the key. The more educated the region, the more successful. Every study I have seen, shows education leads to success. Unfortunately, 93 of the poorest most unsuccessful counties in the nation are conservative.

      • objectivefodder

        Jason hit it right on the proverbial nail…thank you! The hatred and discontent will ultimately end, if but by the power of the people and the courts. Sarah Marsh is much closer to God than 90% of you faux pas brainwashed, deceived and alienated false doctrine wolves in sheep’s clothing Christians.

        Your days are numbered and you don’t even know who the enemy is. May I suggest you look in the mirror? You’re 180 degrees opposite of what I was taught regarding the messages of Christianity. You’re sealing your own fate, how could you not see your own hypocrisy? Those of you who are haters will be dealt with in a manner which will squelch your bitterness and discrimination soon. You’re entry to your holy place isn’t just based on how much you love certain selective people, it’s based on how you control your weaknesses and control your hatred and open your hearts to all those not necessarily like you, (not just a select few whom you deem worthy).

        You’ve been deceived, and the civil good hearted humans who exemplify and project protecting all humans are a threat to you. I’ve noticed Christians appearing to be fascist, much like Nazi’s. I fear the Klan will rise again soon. You modern so-called Christians can’t deal with love or acceptance. We’re all figuring your kind out. People are losing faith and leaving the churches not because of those whom you deem worthy and selective love, but because of whom you discriminate against, which happens to be many you care not about.

        Your true colors are ugly. Shed those ugly emotions and feelings, and try to open your hearts to what your deity would have you do, and that is loving everyone equally without prejudice and discrimination. I rest my rant. Carry on.

      • Sarah 300

        Wow Objective you just attacked Christianity out of nowhere sounds like some good old fashioned bigotry yourself!

      • Sarah 300

        You obviously didn’t read the story very close. The councilman had little to no support. At least read the article Objective!

      • kristin

        “Aldermen on Tuesday night unanimously approved the second reading of the proposal..”Maybe you should try reading the article Jason, before you make yourself look even more foolish…

      • Bob Jones

        The poorest parts are in the Delta along the Mississippi River. I would not call an area that voted for Obama and other democrats a conservative one.

      • Bruce Ericson

        Jason says, “All liberal areas of Arkansas carry the rest. The poorest counties of Arkansas are conservative.”

        Is Benton County liberal? Is Washington county (excepting Fayetteville) liberal? Is Faulkner county liberal? White County? Hardly, but they are the most “prosperous” counties in Arkansas. The poorest counties are in the Delta which happen to vote Democrat, are poorly educated, and get the rest of the state to pay for the upkeep of their schools.

      • bcalvert9

        Yet Benton County including Rogers and Bentonville seems to be to being quite well and if you check the last 20 years of voting they will be mostly conservative Republican. Nether of these towns are hurting nor is Siloam Springs.

    • Sam

      You would think that if you were a Christian you would wasn’t to be anti-discriminatory. These Christians amaze me now a days. What happened to the parables Jesus taught. He who is without sin cast the first stone. I especially like how many people justify their actions through God. Murder, slavery, torture, and now discrimination.

  • Jeremy

    I’m not surprised at the overwhelming support for discrimination. I AM surprised and elated that a councilman pointed it out.

  • Ben

    This will be a violation of rights of individuals or businesses. Is it racist? Yes. It is their right to refuse to provide service to whomever they want? Absolutely. Liberal or conservative, it is wrong.

  • Steve

    Against increasing police powers – and discrimination. There is plenty of history to show a good idea, ordinance is later co-opted for police use in unintended ways. Police increasingly are becoming more aggressive, militaristic already. Do we really want to grant them increased powers? As for the council woman attempting to publicly shame those she disagreed with – shame on her for trying to stifle honest opposition by such tactics. When did we in this country start demonizing those we disagree with?

  • Arkansan

    Has Fayetteville been a place of horrible discrimination lately? Seems silly to make a new ordinance and pay for an administrator.

  • Steven

    There is already the civil rights act and a constitution that gives one rights AND protection: therefore; passing this ordinance, and to create a “anti-discrimination position” is redundant, and it is a most assuredly a waste of city assets, and a disservice by city administrators who’s duty it is to safeguard against fraud waste and abuse!

  • Ted

    Fayetteville government is a joke, inserting itself into issues it has no say in. I wouldn’t be surprised if they passed resolutions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict…at least that would keep them out of the business of Newton County.

  • Rebecca Powers

    I need to publish the email that alderman sent me today now that I’ve read this article. I thought she was rude, but she was just getting warmed up. Wow. She totally demonized and degraded me for sending in an email to her. When is her term up?!

  • Morgan

    Absolutely hysterical….and pathetic. Never mind the fact that we don’t need this position as it is redundant. How about the fact that there are more pressing concerns facing the City like the outdated and worn out fleet of fire trucks? Somehow we have the money to pay for some needless position because by gosh then our aldermen get to pat themselves on the back again (some of them must have massive bruises on their backs) but we don’t have the money to give the fire department their raises as promised by the mayor? Ms. Marsh is the one who should be ashamed. I am ashamed my alderman is so appallingly hateful and disingenuous. Outrage in their eyes? Wait until the next council meeting, I am betting it is going to be a gavel-banging doozy. See y’all there.

  • Mark Smith

    Objective thank you for your well written comment
    Could not agree more! Shame on the bigots. Their hypo racy will be judged. Crack a book!

  • Michael Therev Collins

    The city council meeting WAS NOT INTERRUPTED. The esteemed councilwoman picked a fight AFTER the meeting by accusing people of racism after not listening (or not being able to understand) a single word any of us said.
    She treated us like a 4th grade class and has no business being in a public position. She is shameful.

  • Michael Therev Collins

    Also, she accused us of forcing the poor pitiful young people to leave with our mean talk.
    Someone asked “how do you know that is why they left?”
    “I could see it in their eyes” was here answer.
    “OH, SPECIAL POWERS!” I conjectured.That is the only explanation I could come up with, she has ESP or something.
    I confirmed with a witness in the hall… the kids left laughing and joking. The lies here are palpable…

    • David

      Oh, Michael you are so mean for trying to protect individual rights. This woman definitely has an agenda.

  • Sarah 300

    Awww Objective Fodder and Jason defending each others liberal ideology…..I guess they ought to meet up in Eureka Springs really embrace liberalism.

    • FedUp

      Ah, Sarah, there you are. I wondered when you were going to come out from under the cover. Fudville: the laughing stock of NW Arkansas.

  • Gaye

    Wow! Pretty much sums it up nicely. This alderman girl sounds like she has her own agenda and after looking at her FB page it’s pretty obvious what that agenda might be. Just glad that this time the stupidity is happening someplace else instead of Ft. Smith, which is more common. Oh, and Jason, don’t use Ft Smith as proof of prosperity. I think anyone that read your comment here in Ft Smith got a good laugh. All of this just goes to prove that education and common sense are two different things. A person can have knowledge, but knowledge without wisdom is like pouring water into a bucket full of holes.

  • David

    I was in attendance at the meeting and witnessed the entire interaction. I’m shocked at the slant this article put on what actually happened. I would have expected more journalistic integrity from 5News…

    The councilwoman was rude and obviously out of touch. It doesn’t seem that she even understands the ordinance she’s supporting. If she’s truly anti-discrimination she wouldn’t consider supporting this at all. We always have federal and state laws that deal with discrimination that these people pretend is so rampant in Fayetteville. The whole thing is a joke and an epic waste of time and I must say this is one of the most ghastly pieces of legislative garbage I have ever seen in my life and the council should be ashamed to even consider it. Very unprofessional. I would suggest the councilwoman and any of the other council members who intent to support this overreach refer to the Constitution and also to the oaths they took to uphold it.

  • Marie

    There are Federal Laws Already in place to protect from discrimination. This is about the Illegals in this country. To prohibit Property owner from refusing to Rent to Illegals who are already ‘Breaking the Law ‘ in this Country. People had better Start Speaking Up and Taking Back Control of Your Cities. Remember at Election Time just Who and What you are putting in Office.

  • Darin

    Aldermen are suppose to represent the people. The people spoke last night so why is there a problem. The motion should be dropped. End of story. This is not a personal platform for them to stand up and try and pass their own agenda’s.

  • Morgan

    Hey Sara, remember the last ward meeting when you said you were following up on the Mayor’s broken promise to the firefighters about their raises? I guess this is the solution; approve a brand new paid totally unnecessary position while the fire department is running three positions short since 2008 due to city wide hiring freeze and let the City break faith with the fire fighters by breaking its promise regarding raises. Good thing the fire fighters are better at keeping their faith to protect us. Ashamed? You and the rest of the council along with the Mayor better look in the mirror for a view of who is shameful.

  • Elaphas

    Ah, the People’s Republic of Fayettenam and the liberal clowns who live there are laughable at best, fascist at worst.

  • civilrights4all

    Sarah Marsh’s outburst of shameful name calling betrays her bigotry and hate for the religious community in Fayetteville. Such a display of raw, irrational emotion is unbecoming of a city representative who is supposed to care about the civil rights of all citizens.
    The anti-discrimination ordinance submitted by Alderman Matthew Petty discriminates against religious organizations, private schools, and women. There is nothing civil or right about taking freedoms from some in the pretence of protecting others.
    Discrimination recourse is already available. There is no need for this ordinance. It introduces nothing but bad policy and discrimination against good citizens.

  • Jimmy Bob

    You would think that more people would embrace less discrimination. Their calling her a racist for want to implement a position that would help with anti-discrimination. I don’t get it. These conservatives have so much hate today. Anything new or different they hate and then justify it through Christianity.

    • Shazam O'Neal

      Anything that liberals feel should be forced on society they justify by using Christianity… If it’s a Christian held belief it is then worth attacking. You will probably get liberal bonus points if you throw in the words old, white, male, and rich.

      Anything new or different? Yeah, it’s super crazy that these folks got upset about men being allowed in their towns’ bathrooms/showers/changing rooms with women and little girls. I can’t imagine an Atheist mother having any problem with a man who looks like he could possibly be a pedophile following her 8 year old daughter to the Red Lobster/Mellow Mushroom/Chili’s/Food Court/etc. bathroom…. Ya know, because Atheists don’t believe in God or any kind of higher being, they must also have zero concern for the safety and well-being of their offspring. Atheists don’t hate pedophiles. That’s for those bible belt folks! Your right Jimmy Bob. Those dang hardcore right-wing Christians are at it again! Whatever will we do with them? IDEA! When the vote to silence public outrage is denied, create a government position out of thin air that would give police authority to ONE un-elected official, with a near limitless power to silence and imprison all those haters that oppose this purely golden ordinance! That’ll show them! Oh and let’s give Sarah Marsh an award for BIGGEST HEART, she’s just the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      • objectivefodder

        You’re insane mister O’NEAL. You have no earthly idea what you’re talking about and your ranting made no sense whatsoever. Your little retort wasn’t even remotely applicable to the reality of what took place at the meeting. Your blanketing commentary was confusing, ambiguous and full of nonsensical rhetoric. None of it even applied to discrimination or fairness to those who have been alleged to have been discriminated against. Businesses do discriminate. I’ve seen it myself in food service and rental housing. You exemplify hatred and what Christianity stands for in society today. Don’t you get it? Listen to yourself. Your first sentence doesn’t make any sense either. Please, go back to school, crack a book and get educated. You have no idea what liberal means and I doubt, from the tone of your ranting, you know conservatism. You’re the epitome of why this state is so divided. Some of us don’t like being last in every statistic when it comes to human rights and education. Clearly you don’t mind. Some of us want to progressively move our people forward and make this a beautiful state-the best place to live in the Midwest. Your kind doesn’t. Why? Are you afraid? Do you care? I’ve never witnessed such credulity and unjust thoughts against others with a spewing of animosity and outright vitriolic hatred as from those who defend the religious right. Fascism comes to mind when I hear people like you.

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