A Bradley County man’s quest to have the Cleveland city manager and a councilman charged for ripping up his protests signs came to naught Tuesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Dan Rawls said Bradley County General Sessions Judge Sheridan Randolph refused to issue criminal summonses for City Manager Janice Casteel or Councilman George Poe on charges of vandalism, criminal trespass and official oppression.
After meeting with the judge to make his request, Rawls said Randolph told him that even if he signed the papers, the prosecutor’s office was likely to dismiss the charges.
The two city officials ripped up protest signs Rawls posted in front of his business, Cleveland Performance Center, when Gov. Bill Haslam was appearing across the street on July 11. Rawls said the hand-painted sign saying, “Haslam, shame on u,” was to protest the governor’s support for Common Core educational standards.
Poe said afterward that the signs were an embarrassment to the city and that they were on city right of way.
Photos showed them near a stop sign and a utility pole, but it’s hard to determine whether they are within the 6-foot right of way
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.
A union has suspended its protests against subcontractors paying substandard wages and benefits — using signs that say “Shame On” the person or entity targeted in the protest — after two sign-carrying pickets were found to have criminal backgrounds, reports the News Sentinel. Picketers have held up the signs in front of Cherokee Health, Denark Construction and the Andrew Johnson Building in Knoxville, as well as at Blount Memorial Hospital and Maryville College.
But the banners are down in the Knoxville’ area as the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council awaits criminal background checks on all individuals it hires to hold the signs.
The union took down the banners after two Knoxville men holding a “Shame on…” banner in front of First Baptist Church of Dandridge were arrested on May 18 for violating the state sex offender registry law.
Ricky Dean Moore, 49, was released in lieu of $25,000 bond, while Michael David Sadler, 51, was held on $25,000 bond, according to a Jefferson County General Sessions Court staffer. They each face a 9 a.m. June 13 hearing in General Sessions Court.
James L. Kerley, executive secretary/treasurer with the Nashville-based union that has 5,000-plus members, said the union was unaware of the men’s criminal backgrounds.
“As far as we know, we are doing everything we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
— Note: Frank Cagle has an opinion on such doings.