NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Opponents of a measure that seeks to ban Tennessee public schools from teaching about gay issues said Wednesday they will continue to show up in large groups to protest the legislation.
The proposal, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is sponsored by Rep. Joey Hensley and was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Subcommittee.
The Hohenwald Republican, who chairs the subcommittee, said he wanted to be out of the committee room by a certain time so he delayed taking up his bill and others until next week.
“It was just last on the calendar and there were three or four bills left,” he said. “If we would have had time we certainly would have heard all the bills. We’ll put it on the calendar first next week.”
Chris Sanders is chairman of the Nashville committee of the Tennessee Equality Project, which organized the gathering of protesters, most of whom were wearing purple.
He said he doesn’t view Hensley’s decision as disrespectful, but that the protesters will be “keeping the pressure on.”
Protester Eric Patton said he didn’t necessarily object to Hensley’s proposal being delayed because he doesn’t want to see it voted on at all.
“The longer it’s not in the law, that’s OK with me,” said the 21-year-old.
The companion to Hensley’s proposal passed the Senate last year. It limits all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Hensley said he plans to amend the House version to say the same thing, and believes it will pass.
Opponents of the legislation fear it would prevent teachers and others from speaking out against the bullying of gay teens.
Read HB0229 at http://capitol.tn.gov .
State lawmakers have proposed making it illegal to squat on public property – a move to get rid of the “Occupy Nashville” protesters, whose tents line the War Memorial Plaza just outside the General Assembly’s offices.
From WPLN’s report:
Rep. Eric Watson, a Republican from Cleveland, filed a House bill to make it a misdemeanor to “maintain living quarters” on publicly owned property not designated for residential use. It also makes it a misdemeanor offense to “pose a health hazard or threat” to public safety.
Violators could be thrown off the property and be liable for any damages. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Dolores Gresham, a Republican from Somerville. Both Watson and Gresham declined to comment until next week.
Protesters at the “Occupy Nashville” site say they had been expecting the move to try to force them off the Plaza. So far they’ve been protected by a federal court order that keeps the state from removing the demonstrators. They’ve been there for 104 days.
…The bill is SB 2508 Gresham/ HB 2638 Watson.
The Occupy Nashville group has about 45 tents on the Legislative Plaza, two Porta-potties, and several Metro Nashville rolling trashcans. Demonstrators say they routinely clean up after themselves.
Offenses of the proposed law would be Class C misdemeanors. Law enforcement officers say that a Class C misdemeanor would entail a $50 fine and potentially some jail time – although that’s not a routine punishment at that level of offense.
Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Department of General Services billed Occupy Nashville $1,045 to provide two troopers for security the night before they began arresting the protesters and clearing their encampment.
The invoice was part of a public records request to the department from The Associated Press.
Protester Dorsey Malina said she was one of a group that met with General Services Commissioner Steve Cates on Oct. 26 over their concerns about security on the plaza.
There is some disagreement about what happened at that meeting. Malina said a trooper who had been making the rounds of the plaza at night suddenly stopped showing up and protesters wanted to know why.
They were told the state could not police their encampment and they would have to pay for security, she said.
Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman with the Safety Department, said troopers never stopped patrolling the plaza and Safety officials who attended the meeting do not recall protesters ever raising that concern. They were concerned about safety, she said, so Cates suggested they hire security.
Both sides say the protesters agreed to hire the troopers. On Oct. 27 the protesters received a bill for the services of two troopers from 10:30 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. at a rate of $55 per hour.
About 20 Occupy Nashville protesters took to the Mall at Green Hills Friday afternoon, decrying corporate greed, reports The Tennessean.
The group showed up around 4:20 p.m. and, about 20 minutes later, broke out into chants and a variation of Jingle Bells.
“Buy no-thing, buy no-thing, buy no-thing today,” they sang for the chorus. “Better sales will come in time, but family can’t wait – hey!”
The group then marched up the stairs and toward the exit chanting, “Buy nothing!”
The group then got ejected from the property by mall security..
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Wall Street protesters in Nashville say they’re preparing for an indefinite stay at the Legislative Plaza as the state comes up with new rules for the grounds surrounding the state Capitol.
Last Thursday, a federal judge signed an order for a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a hastily drawn-up curfew policy that was used to briefly dislodge the encampment from the plaza across the street from the Capitol.
The injunction does not prohibit the state from drawing up new rules, and Gov. Bill Haslam has said his administration intends to do so.
Nevertheless, protesters plan to occupy the plaza for a while. Protester Eva Watler says the group is in “winterization planning mode right now.”
Excerpt from a Josh Flory report on Occupy Knoxville:
While Nashville’s Occupy encampment sparked a legal confrontation with the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam and members of Occupy Wall Street were recently forced out of a Manhattan park by police, Knoxville sympathizers have declined to camp out in public places and have cooperated with law enforcement.
Why the differing approaches?
Rose Hawley, a South Knoxville resident who has been active in the local movement, said Knoxville isn’t New York or Nashville.
“They have the human resources to occupy (a location) 24-7,” she said.
There may be more complex factors at work, though. Nathan Kelly, a University of Tennessee political scientist who has written a book about the politics of income inequality in the United States, said via email that the Occupy Wall Street message likely doesn’t resonate broadly in Knoxville, which he described as a very conservative place.
Kelly said the message of Occupy Wall Street is that the American economic system is leaving many people behind and needs to become more fair.
“A lot of rank-and-file conservatives are also really upset about the dramatic levels of inequality present in America today and share a sense that many are being left behind economically,” he said. “But for conservatives, the narrative is not that the economic system is somehow to blame, but rather that lots of individuals have made bad choices
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Nashville judge on Monday dismissed trespassing and other citations against 55 Occupy Nashville protesters and ordered their records expunged.
“We won again,” protester Dorsey Malina said after a brief hearing.
The ruling was the latest in a series of defeats for Gov. Bill Haslam’s attempt to dislodge the group with a curfew on the grounds around the state Capitol.
Afterward, Haslam signaled in an interview with The Associated Press that the fight to remove the protesters, or at least curtail their activities, was not over. He said new rules for the space are in the works, and his administration is developing them in cooperation with constitutional lawyers and people who use the space.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Occupy Nashville protesters are suing Gov. Bill Haslam over a new curfew on the grounds around the Capitol that has been used to dislodge their camp and arrest demonstrators.
The lawsuit claims the curfew was created without following required procedures, and its enforcement violates the protesters rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and due process.
A federal judge on Monday will hear the protesters’ request for a temporary restraining order.
The curfew was adopted on Thursday, and at 3 a.m. on Friday, state troopers moved in and arrested 29 protesters. Troopers arrested 26 more the following night. On both occasions, the judicial commissioner refused to jail the protesters, and they were released.
Haslam’s spokesman David Smith said it was inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities in Tennessee made about 30 arrests early Friday at the site where a few dozen Wall Street protesters have been encamped for about three weeks in Nashville, protesters said.
Authorities began moving in a little after 3 a.m. using a newly enacted state policy that set a curfew for the grounds near the state Capitol, including Legislative Plaza where the protesters had been staying in tents. The state’s new rules specifically banned “overnight occupancy” at the public space and require permits and use fees for rallies.
Friday’s arrests came after a week of police crackdowns around the country on Occupy Wall Street activists, who have been protesting economic inequality and what they call corporate greed. In Oakland, Calif., an Iraq War veteran was seriously injured during a protest clash with police Tuesday night. In Atlanta early Wednesday, helicopters hovered overhead as officers in riot gear arrested more than 50 protesters at a downtown park.
But in Nashville later Friday morning, Jeff Blum of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said the arrested protesters were being released after a night court judge wouldn’t sign the warrants. He didn’t elaborate on the judge’s refusal.
Protester Steve Reiter, who works closely with the group’s legal team, said there were apparently problems with how the protesters were taken into custody, particularly concerning being given proper notice. Reiter said their release is a victory for Occupy Nashville.
Katy Savage, another of the protesters, said she peeked out of her tent around 3 a.m. and saw that the camp was surrounded by state troopers.
“I was grabbing our stuff to try to get it off the area,” she said.
Savage said people who had already decided they would get arrested sat down together and began singing “We Shall Overcome” as troopers took them — dragging some — to waiting buses.
About 20 protesters, who remained on a sidewalk, were not arrested and were still there later in the morning. All the tents had been removed from the plaza and state workers could be seen picking up items left by the protesters. Several state troopers stood guard at the steps to the Capitol.
Asked about the arrests, Savage said she was “disgusted and disappointed.”
“This was a group of brilliant, wonderful people that I had come to know as family, practicing democratic decision-making on public space. And for that they were dragged away in handcuffs,” Savage said.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott would not give details about the arrests, saying only that authorities were there “to enforce the general services policy for the plaza and the Capitol area.”
State officials planned to hold a news conference later in the morning to discuss the arrests.
Protester Albert Rankin said Thursday that the group intended to face arrests with “no hostility whatsoever” to avoid a repeat of violent shutdowns of protests in other cities this week.
“There were some shouts here and there, but for the most part, it was very peaceful,” Rankin said of Friday’s arrests in Nashville.
Police last removed protesters from the legislative office complex in March during discussions of anti-union bills. Seven were arrested for disrupting a Senate Commerce Committee meeting and resisting arrest but later acquitted.
See also The Tennessean, which has pictures of protesters being arrested by Highway Patrol officers.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Seven protesters who disrupted a state Senate committee hearing in March have been acquitted of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges.
“We argued they were exercising their First Amendment rights, and we think the First Amendment is really important,” said defense attorney Jay Steed, who represented the group in Davidson County General Sessions Court with partner Jonathan Farmer.
Judge Casey Moreland found the group not guilty on Friday.
The seven men and women who were arrested on March 15 were mostly students from the University of Memphis who were at the Capitol to denounce a bill to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights. They were among a group that stood up during a Senate hearing to chant about “union busting” by the Legislature.
Most demonstrators left the hearing room after a half-hour, but a small group tried to lock arms to keep from being removed. Troopers pulled the holdouts out of the room one by one, while lawmakers, lobbyists and other observers looked on.
A bill replacing teachers’ collective bargaining rights with a concept called collaborative conferencing was later passed and signed into law.
The measure would replace union contracts with binding memorandums of understanding on issues such as salaries, grievances, benefits and working conditions. But it would shield other areas such as differentiated pay or evaluations from discussions.
Supporters of the bill said it was a good compromise, but detractors noted that the legislation would allow school districts to dictate terms to teachers if no agreement is struck.
Note: See also Andy Sher, who lists the protester names, including one from Chattanooga.