A fourth night of peaceful protests led to mass arrests in Little Rock and detention of journalists for the crime of walking the streets of Little Rock after 8 p.m.

You heard me right. Citing evidence of unspecified “professional” outside agitators, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. declared an 8 p.m. curfew. This followed a downtown business community panic earlier in the day over rumors that squadrons of agitators were heading from — get this — Iowa and Nebraska to wreak havoc in Little Rock.

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Thousands were allowed to protest peacefully in Fayetteville, unburdened by a dubious curfew and the heavy hand of the governor. Hot Springs was allowed to peacefully protest as well.

Tuesday evening, with no advance indication, Gov. Asa Hutchinson essentially declared Arkansas a police state with him in charge.  A key element of his executive order allows his State Police to take control anywhere they deem necessary in Little Rock and everywhere else in the state. Undercurrent: In the capital, tensions between the state and the problematic leadership of Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey are close to palpable.

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And so it was that a well-behaved group of demonstrators gathered for another night of demonstration at the Capitol. Some obeyed the curfew and went home. Some took off on a march to the Governor’s Mansion and then back downtown, where arrests were made between 10 and 11 p.m., reportedly instigated at the outset by water bottles tossed at a police car.

In the process, two reporters from KATV and one from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette were detained but finally released without citation.

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Chilling report from KATV:

An officer told the group downtown that in addition to violating the curfew, they were being arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct and would be charged with “whatever else they can think of,” the video shows.

The reporters were NOT violating curfew. They were working, an exception even under the draconian law of Asansas.

I’m sorry for the journalists and join the condemnation issued by the Arkansas Press Association’s expression.

But I’m also sorry for the arrest of dozens of people exercising their First Amendment rights — peacefully — on what looks more and more like policing by rumor.

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I’m outraged a police state was imposed in Little Rock last night on the thinnest of pretexts. I filed an FOI request last night for information supporting this extraordinary move.

Evidence grows of a nationwide effort to plant rumors of violent action by agents attempting to promote fear and damage the movement for racial justice. Was there legitimate intelligence that prompted the dire responses in Little Rock? Or were we taken in by this disinformation campaign? Here’s one of many articles nationwide about the planting of false rumors. In Little Rock, we already know a purported “antifa” group posted an internet announcement of an assault on the Outlet Mall Saturday night. Police manpower was dispatched. Nothing happened. And catch this national roundup of fake threats, including “busloads” of rioters descending on Iowa, just as LR Chief Humphrey darkly intimated.

It is also true that demonstration crowds have been dotted with suspected chaos makers. Remember the man in the Hawaiian shirt with the military rifle in the Saturday crowd? Remember the hooded white men responsible for damage to Capitol neighborhood buildings as attention was mostly diverted to the Capitol steps?

Nextdoor and Facebook in Arkansas have been just a couple of social media outlets full of unfounded rumors about “antifa” attacks on the Heights, the Promenade at Chenal, the Outlet Mall, downtown Little Rock and more, including in other Arkansas cities.

The mayor, police chief, governor and State Police commander owe the public specific justification for making it a crime to walk on Little Rock streets after 8 p.m. without ample justification. As we’ve seen, a working press card may not be good enough.

Trust our leaders? If you must. But verify.

Finally, if you want a video record of events last night, the best source I’ve found is the Twitter account of Will Yandell, a Little Rock law student. It’s clear-eyed and dispassionate and systematic. He’s also on Facebook and is measured, but as he commented after Saturday night’s events turned chaotic, with my emphasis:

I have tried to be as measured as I possibly can be about the protests in Little Rock, but what happened last night was surprising. Protestors were mostly fearful of retaliation from a group of racist counter-protestors, not from the police.

Several examples of his coverage last night follow. He was detained and zip-tied, but released as were many others after providing name, address and phone and having bags searched. Some were arrested, he said, included one person with a gun. He said he didn’t claim to be a journalist. He’s an active participant in the peaceful movement who set out independently to attempt to create an enduring document of events because he rued their lack in some past uprisings around the country. He says he’s tried to avoid opinion or links to others to preserve the neutral observational voice.

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I also was sent this photo earlier in the evening.

AT THE CAPITOL: Potential paddy wagon? Call it the official vehicle of Asa’s Police State.