A Cleveland, Tenn., businessman says city officials crossed a line when they tore down protest signs he posted outside his business Thursday during a visit by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “There needs to be a public apology,” said Dan Rawls, owner of Cleveland Performance Center, for what he says is trespass and violation of his right to free speech. “I think they need to take a course in the Constitution to learn not only that you can’t violate private property rights, you can’t violate First Amendment rights.”
But City Councilman George Poe said Rawls is the one who crossed the line by planting the handmade signs on city right of way near the South Cleveland Community Center, where Haslam announced $570,000 in grants for the center and the Mouse Creek greenway.
“The governor came to give us a half-million dollars, and I thought that was pretty nice,” Poe said Friday. “We come out the door, and there’s signs all over the place painted on cardboard boxes in orange spray paint. … It was a pretty big embarrassment to us in the city,” Poe said Friday.
Rawls planted signs in the grass near the street in front of his business to protest Haslam’s support for the Common Core standards…K-12 education guidelines that Rawls calls a “federally run school system.”
“Shame on you Haslam,” one read. A smaller sign next to it said, “Stop CC.”
Poe said he went with City Manager Janice Casteel when she said the signs were on the public right of way. He said she called the police codes enforcement officer and began pulling up the signs.
Then, Poe said, “This big muscled-up guy, screaming, yelling, slinging his arms around,” came out of Rawls’ business and ordered him and Casteel off his property. Poe said he “thought he was going to give Janice a shove,” so he used the police radio he carries to call for help.
Rawls said he ordered Casteel and Poe to get off his property but didn’t in any way threaten them. Police showed up in force, but calm was restored quickly.
From photos, it’s hard to tell whether the signs are in the 6-foot city right of way.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled in favor of members of the Occupy Nashville movement who claimed their free speech rights were violated when they were arrested while protesting in 2011 on War Memorial Plaza.
U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger wrote in an order issued on Wednesday that the seven plaintiffs’ rights to engage in constitutionally protected free speech activity was violated when they were arrested based on a hastily written rule that banned camping on the plaza.
The plaintiffs sued Gov. Bill Haslam, Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Commissioner of General Services Steven Cates. Trauger’s order denied some of the plaintiffs’ claims but also said that they had prevailed in proving that the state officials could be held liable on claims of violations of free speech rights, violation of due process and unlawful arrest.
Following the national Occupy Wall Street movement, protesters began a 24-hour-a-day presence on the plaza outside of the state Capitol in early October 2011. But the state started getting complaints about trash and public urination and other problems. The state then issued a new policy banning overnight camping on the state property.
In the early morning of Oct. 28, 2011, several protesters were arrested, but a local judicial commissioner refused to sign the arrest warrants because there had not been enough notice of the policy change. The following night, more protesters were arrested, but they were released with misdemeanor citations.
Trauger wrote in her order that even though the state had concerns about public safety on the plaza, officials still had to follow the law to address those concerns.
“Instead, without providing adequate notice to the public at large, they informally attempted to change the law overnight, made no record of the proceedings, and failed to consult with the Attorney General, who otherwise must pass on the constitutional validity of any rule (whether adopted through traditional or emergency procedures) before it becomes law,” Trauger wrote.
David Briley, an attorney representing the Occupy Nashville group, called the ruling a resounding victory for the principles of free speech and protest.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Memphis Saturday with the robed white supremacists and those opposed to their message separated by two blocks and several fences, reports the Commercial Appeal. A few dozen anti-Klan protesters showed up late and tried to enter the rally without going through a security checkpoint, but police quickly quelled that.
Then, after talking to each other for just over an hour, the Klan members got back on their buses, the protesters filtered out of Downtown and police began packing up their enormous quantities of gear.
Although a few people were removed from the area to head off trouble, police made only one arrest, and the event went off peacefully.
That was all in sharp contrast to the last Klan rally in Memphis, in January 1998. A near-riot broke out during that rally, as police fired tear gas to disrupt the crowds. Police arrested 26 people that day, confiscating numerous guns and knives.
Responding to the lessons learned in 1998, the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, aided by other law-enforcement agencies, put on an overwhelming show of force Saturday.
A small throng of protesters gathered at War Memorial Plaza on Sunday in a rally organized by conservative activists, including tea party members, to oppose extending TennCare to tens of thousands of Tennessee families, reports The Tennessean. They claimed that an expansion would undermine small government values and inflate the national debt. On a bright and breezy day, about 100 demonstrators carried handwritten signs suggesting that their anger stretched beyond the issue of TennCare expansion with messages like “entitlement programs create more dependency and harm.” Many of the speakers blasted President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul as an instance of the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers.
“There are always well-intended groups suggesting that we abandon our principles contrary to sound conservative judgment,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who filed a measure in the House to bar the state from expanding TennCare. “That’s the exact mindset that got our country into the dire fiscal straits we face today.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais spoke in broad terms about how Obamacare represents “the socialization of our health care system.” Asked by reporters after he spoke about his position on TennCare expansion, he said he opposes it. “To look at history and say, ‘let’s double down on a failed policy’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
For more reporting on the rally, see Andy Sher, and WPLN.
Gov. Bill Haslam and two of his commissioners are refusing to talk on the record with lawyers about how they decided to arrest Occupy Nashville protesters camped on War Memorial Plaza in 2011, reports Andrea Zelinski. In response to a motion by Attorney General Robert Cooper to spare the high-ranking officials from depositions, lawyers representing the protesters are urging a judge to force the trio to share details only they know about deciding on curfew rules that led troopers to make 54 arrest at an Occupy Nashville protest in two midnight police raids.
“The Governor and the Commissioner should not be permitted to make statements freely to the press about their personal knowledge and involvement when it suits their public relations strategy, but in the next breath hide from deposition by claiming high ranking official immunity when they are sued for those very same actions,” read the motion filed by three local ACLU of Tennessee cooperating attorneys who filed the lawsuit for Occupy Nashville. “To do so would be patently unfair.”
Attorneys had originally planned to depose the governor, Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and General Services Commissioner Steven Cates by Friday of this week. Cooper pre-empted the depositions by asking for an order of protection, saying the state had already handed over 13,000 pages of documents. Additionally, five state government staffers — including the author of the curfew rules — gave depositions about meetings where decisions over the plaza’s “Use Policy” with a curfew were made.
“There is no evidence at this juncture that the defendants’ depositions would actually be necessary — the discovery can be had, and has been had, by other means,” stated Cooper’s motion from Jan. 2.
New Legislature Faces Familiar Topics
Chas Sisk has first here-comes-the-legislature roundup story for 2013 (appearing before 2012 has ended). The summary sentences: Pass a budget. Resolve debates on guns, charter schools and wine. Get out of Nashville quickly.
Tennessee lawmakers do not reconvene until Jan. 8, but already their list of resolutions for the 108th General Assembly is becoming clear.
There’s also a sidebar with brief discussion on the following topics: Guns, health care reform, vouchers, charter schools, wine in grocery stores, workers compensation, solar industry tax breaks, pre-kindergarten, campaign finance. Legislator Surprised to be in Office
Chris Carroll reports that some legislators don’t realize they officially take office on election day in Tennessee. Opening line: Not even Todd Gardenhire knew when he became Sen. Todd Gardenhire.
There’s a list of some other Southeastern state rules on when legislators assume office. It appears Tennessee is the earliest listed, though Alabama lawmakers are close – the day after election. Florida legislators take office “upon election,” but that may mean when the votes are certified? Knoxville Had a ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Rally
Nearly two dozen people rallied outside the Howard H. Baker Jr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Knoxville Saturday to urge Tennessee’s congressmen to pass a bill to extend tax cuts for the middle class and head off the looming “fiscal cliff,” reports the News Sentinel. Local residents gathered about 10:30 a.m. and stood outside for about an hour, said organizer June Jones.
“They’re just playing politics, and we’re just putting a light on the subject,” Jones said. “They’re just playing with people’s lives and making a lot of people very nervous.” No Free Ride for Putnam’s New Year’s Eve Celebrants
In Putnam County, a New Year’s Eve tradition of providing free rides home for drunken celebrators won’t be functioning this year, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, because the Upper Cumberland Human Resource won’t furnish vehicles and drivers. “We provided the vans and our staff volunteered in coordinating the services, drove the vehicles and a separate staff volunteer went as an escort in each van,” Randall Killman, field operations specialist with UCHRA, explained. “In recent years, the agency has experienced some issues with intoxicated passengers that put our volunteer staff at risk.”
Even though it’s been nearly a year since they’ve been removed from Legislative Plaza, the Occupy Nashville protesters are not going away quietly, reports the City Paper. More than a dozen Occupy Nashville protesters, including 13 that were arrested, filed a lawsuit against the state in the U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee on Wednesday. The lawsuit names Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of General Services Commissioner Steven Cates, Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and the Tennessee Highway Patrol officers who carried out the dispersion of protesters on War Memorial Plaza last year.
Occupy Nashville took up camp on the plaza on Oct. 6, 2011, building off the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. The lawsuit specifically takes aim at a set of new rules that were enforced to oust the protesters from the plaza. The protesters are requesting a federal judge to permanently prohibit the enforcement of the new rules.
“These New Rules unconstitutionally limit access by the public to a forum universally accepted to be an area protected for the speech of the governed,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also claims the defendants are guilty of First Amendment violations, due process violations, unlawful search and seizure and unlawful arrest.
The Scott DesJarlais campaign has complained to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press about a Clay Bennett cartoon. writes Alison Gerber. It depicts DesJarlais with a pistol in his mouth and a caption that says, “The Character Assassination.” (See cartoon HERE.) The DesJarlais staffer said it’s not appropriate to publish a cartoon depicting a sitting member of Congress with a gun in his mouth. He said he’d called the U.S. Capitol police about the cartoon.
Tossing the term “Capitol police” around in a conversation and insisting that officers will be calling me about the cartoon shows a disregard for the First Amendment. It also is a clear attempt at intimidation.
What an irony. Someone who works for the federal government asking federal law enforcement to do something about an image that is protected under the First Amendment.
…In a common move from angry politicians, the DesJarlais congressional staffer said he intends to cut off reporters Andy Sher and Chris Carroll, who are covering the campaign for the 4th Congressional District, where DesJarlais is in a suddenly tight race with Democrat Eric Stewart.
The congressman can retaliate against the newspaper by cutting off information to our reporters, but Sher and Carroll — two bulldog-ish reporters not easily intimidated — will still cover the race. If DesJarlais and his people won’t talk to the newspaper, we’ll still talk to his opponent, his supporters, his detractors and voters in his district.
Gasket-blowing over political cartoons is hardly a new thing. They’ve been steaming things up since, well, before the United States was even a country. They’ve also been shaping public opinion and influencing history.
An engraving by Paul Revere that depicted British troops firing on unarmed Colonials during the Boston Massacre of 1770 wasn’t exactly how the event happened. Still, it was widely circulated in the Colonies and is credited with stirring up anti-British sentiment.
…So I will not try to convince you that Bennett’s cartoon was in good taste. That’s for you to decide. Even in the Times Free Press newsroom, journalists were divided about whether Bennett’s cartoon crossed a line. But that’s irrelevant.
Comedian Stephen Colbert ridiculed DesJarlais Thursday night on his “Colbert Report,” calling the congressman a “Republican Rottweiler” who “proved his flexibility by lifting his leg and peeing on his own position.”
Colbert joked that DesJarlais is “still adamantly against abortion except when it endangers the political life of the father.”
Offensive? I’m sure DesJarlais and his supporters think so.
About 50 people showed up at Krutch Park in downtown Knoxville to protest the state law requiring a photo ID for voting, reports the News Sentinel. Jen Wallis, council organizer for the Knoxville chapter of MoveOn.org, said new voter ID laws are simply a form of suppression and an attempt to sway elections.
“It’s targeted at young voters, the elderly and it targets minority groups,” said Wallis.
MoveOn was gathering signatures Saturday for an anti-photo ID petition that it hopes to eventually present to both local and state election officials.
Wallis said MoveOn had already collected 400 signatures as of Saturday, and hopes to eventually have the petition signed by 2,000 people. The group also helped register people to vote on Saturday.
Knoxville’s Debra Patterson carried a “Tennessee Voter ID Law is Wrong” sign at the rally.
Patterson, who said she will vote for incumbent Barack Obama in the November presidential election, suggested that the voter photo ID laws are a conservative ploy.
“This is to marginalize people who tend to vote democratic,” said Patterson. “I do believe it looks like an attempt to reduce participation at the polls.”
A group of students, teachers and alumni at a New York high school are calling for the removal of state Sen. Stacey Campfield from its hall of fame based on his comments on homosexuality and AIDS, reports The Tennessean. Several people denounced Campfield at an apparently raucous school board meeting in Vestal, N.Y., the small town near Binghamton where the Knoxville Republican grew up. The group called for his portrait to be taken down from Vestal High School’s Hall of Fame, with one woman shouting “Cowards!” at school board members when they did not immediately agree to do so, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, a Gannett sister paper.
Campfield told the paper they “are welcome to their point of view.”
The source of the controversy is a view Campfield shared with a radio host in January that AIDS entered the human population via a sexual encounter with a monkey. Most scientists believe humans first contracted AIDS by eating infected primate meat.
— Update: The board voted to keep Campfield’s portrait in place. AP story below.