LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The ACLU on Monday questioned whether “no trespassing” signs near I-430 and Rodney Parham and their intended purpose were legal. An ARDOT spokesperson said clearing out those areas was a safety measure.

Late last month, ARDOT cleared out homeless encampments set up near interstates in Central Arkansas. They gave people a week’s notice before starting the work and provided resources on where to go if help is needed.

“We put up No Trespassing signs in areas we are responsible for cleaning and clearing,” ARDOT spokesperson Dave Parker said. “We gave a 7-day notice and handed out information about other resources, places where they could receive help. We can’t do our job if people are living there. Safety comes first and we just don’t want an accident to occur.”

In a statement, ACLU spokesperson Holly Dickson questioned the legality of that operation. 

“The Department of Transportation put up no trespassing signs despite the fact that this is public property,” Dickson said. “Federal courts of appeals in this country have already found that it is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to prohibit unhoused people from staying in public spaces. We, as a state, need to stop trying to criminalize people out of poverty and instead do more to ensure that all Arkansans have safe and affordable housing, access to mental and physical healthcare, education, meals, and other necessities.”

Parker said he does not want this to be an ARDOT vs. ACLU situation. He said ARDOT is not moving people or wanting people to get arrested.