Welcome to Tennessee–Where the First Amendment is 2/3 Null and Void

After arresting protesters for peaceably assembling on Thursday night, Governor Haslam upped the ante by arresting protesters for peaceably assembling and arresting a Scene reporter who was there covering it. On Twitter, they were also saying that a Fox 17 camera person was injured, but I can’t find confirmation of that this morning.

I’m going to just link to Mike Byrd, who’s done a nice write-up that is succinct and makes sense. I don’t think I could pull that off right now.

I want to say that, when you live in a state where they make up “laws” on the fly AND wait until the middle of the night to arrest people for violating those made-up on the fly laws so that their actions remain hidden from citizens, when they wait until the middle of the night to arrest people AND they arrest journalists so that your ability to learn about what happened is curtailed, it’s sobering.

Who even knows what’s legal in Tennessee? Apparently it’s just at the whim of the Haslam administration. Who also knows for what you’ll be arrested? Apparently, if you look like an occupier, you’ll be arrested, but if you look like you just came from the theater, you will not. And once they start arresting journalists? Ugh.

So, that’s freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. If I were a religious person in this state, I’d be looking around nervously at this point.

It’s a weird feeling. On the one hand, I have never felt more deeply troubled about living in Tennessee. If we can’t agree on basic things like how laws are made, that they should be enforced equally against everyone, and that I, as a citizen, have the right to learn about what happens in my state through the press and not through state issued press releases, then we are in pretty precarious times.

But on the other hand, when I look through Chris Wage’s pictures, and I see these amazing, ordinary people, my fellow Tennesseans, it makes me so incredibly proud.

On Wednesday, these were a handful of people I think most people in the state thought were a little corny. By now, Saturday morning, they are on the front line of a fundamental battle in this state over whether we still live under the Tennessee State Constitution–

That the printing presses shall be free to every person to examine the proceedings of the Legislature; or of any branch or officer of the government, and no law shall ever be made to restrain the right thereof. The free communication of thoughts and opinions, is one of the invaluable rights of man, and every citizen may freely speak, write, and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. But in prosecutions for the publication of papers investigating the official conduct of officers, or men in public capacity, the truth thereof may be given in evidence; and in all indictments for libel, the jury shall have a right to determine the law and the facts, under the direction of the court, as in other criminal cases.

And the U.S.–

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Bill Haslam could have let the occupiers occupy until the cold weather sent them home. The fact that he can’t do that indicates something so troubling about how he and his administration see the scope of their power that it should make us all angry.

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17 thoughts on “Welcome to Tennessee–Where the First Amendment is 2/3 Null and Void

  1. This is where the Justice Department comes in. We have sworn peace officers arresting citizens for no legal reason in a public place and then arresting media for reporting on those unconstitutional arrests.

    Apparently Governor Baby has not paid attention to what’s been happening to dictators who hide in their palaces while ordering their citizens’ arrests this year.

  2. I’m proud of all the protesters as well, who are true patriots to stand up for the rights of ALL of us. Not only has our Governor Bill Haslam had these protestors arrested but has pushed his agenda of suppressing the Constitutional Rights of Tennesseans throughout his brief tenure in office from shooting down Nashville’s anti-discrimination laws to creating the bill banning the use of the word “gay” in public schools. He’s railroading civil liberties to the extent of making it illegal to upload a “potentially offensive image” to the internet this year. I addressed our Governor’s antics with a visual commentary of him and his wife on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/07/potentially-offensive-portrait-governor.html Drop by and let me know how you feel about our rights being infringed upon.

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  4. Shoot, if you’re anything but a fundamentalist Christian, hasn’t the established religion and freedom of practice thing been pretty much out the window since the Tennessee Constitution was ratified? You have a religious test in your state constitution.

  5. I’m just doubly pissed at the governor and the THP for making me side with OWS/ON. I mean, come on. I haven’t been this bothered about who I’m sharing the libertarian agenda with since the days of the People Vs. Larry Flynt.

  6. Hey B. I went down last night and stayed till about 11:30, The people were well behaved, and just exercising there rights, T-PAC let out about around 10 and a lot of the people went through legislative plaza the Protesters moved over to let them through with no problems. It is Shameful what is going on.

  7. Rep. Turner, when B. is done hugging your neck, I want to. Keep fighting. Since the GOP has co-opted Sept. 11 for so long for so many wrong reasons, use it for good and remind folks that those firefighters and cops (and civilians), as well as all the service members since, did not give fheir lives, their healthy bodies, their minds just so their fellow citizens could be arrested for expressing their opinions of bullies and cowards who trample on our Constitution.

    Thank you for your service, sir. And B, thank you for the service you’re providing for Tennessee, too.

  8. This is part of something even bigger than what’s happening in Tennessee, and don’t believe this is only Republican thing. I’m going to guess it’s most of our elected officials who are on the take, and they’re following the implied and explicit marching orders of those the OWS folks are protesting. They’re daring the rest of us to get off our asses and pick a side. We already know whose side most of the cops are on. (I guess thirty pieces of silver is worth a lot more these days.) What about those of us without badges and guns? That’s the larger question, I think.

  9. Sam–
    I have gotten the distinct impression from photos, video and FB comments that the THP are in it for more than the ducats.

    They are enjoying the chance to be Tough Guys who are Keeping America Clean.

    Many of the “peace” officers in our state seem to be the type of guys who enjoy getting paid to be–I can’t think of exactly the right word. no bullies necessarily. Empowered to further the good ol boy agenda maybe? It’s like most of us have folks we disagree with and we deal with that by having blogs or going to political affiliate meetings or putting campaign signs in our yards. But around here some guys become cops so they can have the (perceived) right to jerk people around.

  10. Does anyone remember the police being ordered to evacuate the Capitol and Legislative Plaza when Steve Gill and his minions turned downtown Nashville into a sea of honking cars and impassable streets during the protest over a state income tax proposal?

    Yeah, me neither.

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  12. Somebody went and posted a sign quoting Article 1 of the state constitution next to all the signs saying the Plaza closes at night.

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