The newest mover and shaker in East Ridge politics likes to eat shrubbery, weighs 40 pounds and goes by the name Oreo, according to the Chattanooga TFP. The 1-year-old, black-and-white-haired pygmy goat scampered into the spotlight last week, when his owner Jeff Viar came before the East Ridge City Council and pleaded with the city not to take away the pet goat.
City code outlaws goats and other livestock in residential areas, but Oreo’s family say they did not know that until they found a citation on their front door this month.
…The city’s Facebook has been flooded with comments like “Save Oreo!!!” and “Awww let Oreo stay.” Some residents have discussed starting a petition to keep Oreo in East Ridge.
The goat has found some sympathy among city leaders, who say Oreo’s case is unusual because he’s domesticated and clean.
“Oreo is cute, no question about it. I’m actually kind of a fan of goats,” said East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble, who has posted photos and “notes from Oreo” to the city’s Facebook page. “But we have to enforce the ordinance or come up with an alternative.”
Gobble said the city’s animal control officer cited the family after receiving several anonymous complaints about the goat.
The Viars have had Oreo for a year — since he was just a spindly-legged kid. They got him from a family friend in Chickamauga, Ga., after their two children begged for a goat.
“They just didn’t want a dog. They wanted a different kind of animal,” Samantha Viar said.
…East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert said he can relate.
“I have young children; I can imagine how devastated they would be over losing a pet,” said Lambert. “If we can create a narrow exception in the law for Oreo and similar animals, certainly I’d be willing to look at that,”
…Gobble said he will ask the council for a 120-day moratorium on enforcing the anti-Oreo ordinance until the Hamilton County Regional Agency can look at the issue and provide some suggested course of action.
The council plans to continue the discussion at next month’s council meeting, set for Sept. 13.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Hamilton County officials on Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit they filed against Occupy Chattanooga and nine individual protesters. The motion came on the same day that deputies evicted the group’s encampment.
The suit, filed in January, asked the court to declare that the county’s policies for use of public properties and grounds were constitutional. It also asked the judge to order the protesters to pay court costs.
The protesters asked that the case be dismissed, arguing that local governments are not allowed to use the federal courts for rulings on the validity of their ordinances.
In the protesters’ motion for dismissal, Occupy Chattanooga is described as “part of a nationwide and international movement of demonstrations aimed at calling attention to income inequality and irresponsible actions on the part of wealthy corporate actors.”
According to the court filings, protesters began camping out on the courthouse lawn near the beginning of November.
On Jan. 4, the Hamilton County Commission adopted a set of rules for the use of county property, including the courthouse lawn. It includes prohibitions on tables, chairs, grills and open fires, except under certain circumstances, and prohibitions on tents anywhere not designated as a campsite.
According to the county’s complaint, “The grounds of the Courthouse are carefully maintained and kept so as to preserve the property in an attractive and intact condition, readily available to all people who wish to see and enjoy it by their presence.”
The suit claims the rules for use of the grounds are “content-neutral;” that is, they apply equally to everyone and are not intended to single out Occupy protesters because of their political beliefs.
The rules do not establish any type of curfew for the property.
In asking the court to dismiss the case, attorneys for the protesters state, “If a local government could march into court whenever it passed a law to sue anyone potentially affected by a law in order to get a judgment of the law’s validity, the consequences would be troubling for the courts, the parties, and the administration of justice.”
Although attorneys for the county disagreed, on Monday they filed to dismiss the suit.
That motion stated that a change in circumstances made the lawsuit moot but did not say what those circumstances were.
In an interview on Tuesday, County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said the motion referred to the “relocation” of protesters’ tents. Deputies moved the tents to the adjacent sidewalk on Monday.
Protester Beth Foster said in an interview that members of Occupy Chattanooga will continue to have a presence near the courthouse but they are still working out the details.
Taylor said he would not speculate on what the county would do if protesters moved their tents back.
In Nashville on Tuesday, police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said that Occupy protester Christopher Humphrey was arrested for failure to appear in court for a trespassing charge unrelated to his protest activities.
Humphrey has been challenging a new state law intended to evict protesters from their camp on War Memorial Plaza near the state Capitol by spending several nights there. The law prohibits camping on state property that is not specifically designated for it.
Mumford said Humphrey had been charged with trespassing somewhere other than the plaza.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Occupy Nashville protesters say they will continue challenging a new law intended to evict them from their camp near the state Capitol even though a fellow protester wasn’t arrested during enforcement of the law early Monday morning.
The law, signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, prohibits camping on state property that is not specifically designated for it.
Christopher Humphrey, 24, was maintaining his vigil at the group’s camp on War Memorial Plaza when he said about 20 state troopers came onto the plaza around 4 a.m. Monday.
Humphrey said he was asked to come out of his tent. When he did, he said he stood in front of the tent and extended his arms to be handcuffed.
“The officer very carefully grabbed my arm, walked me about four paces … and said that I wasn’t being arrested,” Humphrey said. “That was disappointing to me because I knew that I was going to be arrested.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal aimed at stopping Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight at the Capitol complex has passed the Senate.
The measure was approved 20-10 on Thursday. The companion bill passed the House 70-26 last week. The legislation will now return to the lower chamber for concurrence after an amendment was added.
The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down “bedding for the purpose of sleeping.” It refers to items associated with camping.
Protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. At one time there were as many as 60 tents, but that number is now less than half, mainly because of the proposed legislation.
Under the proposal, violators would be fined as much as $2,500 and face up to nearly a year in jail.
Supporters say the bill is necessary because of criminal activity and lewd behavior at the encampment.
As state lawmakers prepare to move forward this week with plans to evict Occupy Nashville from Legislative Plaza, the Tennessean reports that protesters are considering the idea of temporarily shutting down the encampment on their own as a possible next step. “I think being out here during the winter months is risking people’s health,” said D.J. Hudson, 23, one of the Occupy Nashville protesters arrested during the state’s first ouster attempt in October. “I think we should plan for the spring, keep ourselves rested and return later stronger than when we left.”
Hudson, a student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, was one of about 30 protesters who attended Occupy Nashville’s “next steps” meeting on Saturday. She said she came up with the idea for the group to strategically withdraw from its Legislative Plaza encampment while discussing the Occupy movement late last year with civil rights activist James Lawson.
The idea was one of four main options discussed at the meeting. Others are staying on state-owned land at Legislative Plaza, the Capitol or another building; relocating to a Metro-owned property; or dropping the government angle altogether in favor of occupying privately owned land, said protester Lindsey Krinks, also a Vanderbilt divinity student.
(Note: Updates, replaces earlier post)
Unauthorized camping on state property would be subject to a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail under legislation inspired by Occupy Nashville protesters.
The bill passed committees of both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
In the House, Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, guided the bill to 14-2 approval by the House Judiciary Committee — which Watson chairs — over objections from Occupy Nashville protesters and the two Democrats who voted no.
IWatson told protesters at one point, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” He cited the “sickening” case of a legislative staffer in a courtyard who was sprayed with urine, allegedly from a protester overhead.
About 60 protesters are currently staying in tents on the outdoor Legislative Plaza, which is also the roof over meeting rooms for the Legislature. There are two portable toilets.
“If you approve of that and you think that’s peaceable assembly, you need to be peed on and see how you like it,” Watson said.
The chairman and other backers of the bill said it would allow protests to continue, but not the establishment of living quarters on public property. The bill in some respects copies federal legislation that bans unauthorized camping in national parks, backers said.
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers concerned about the Occupy Nashville encampment next to the state Capitol are promoting a bill that would criminalize camping on public property across the state.
House Judiciary Chairman Eric Watson, who has a clear view of the 60-or-so tents from his office window, is sponsoring the legislation. He mentioned several reasons for wanting the encampment gone, including a couple last year having sex near his windows.
“A fight broke out yesterday,” he said in a Wednesday interview, “and there was a guy streaking today, running out here naked.”
But he said the main reason for the bill was to ensure equal access to the plaza for other groups, including schools that put on musical programs there.
“They’ve been reluctant to come up here. We’ve even had weddings put off,” Watson said.