Why Haslam’s Response to Occupy Nashville Should Concern Lawmakers

From The Tennessean:

“If we’re going to have laws, we have to enforce laws,” Haslam said.

A rule you made up yesterday is not a law. If the governor doesn’t understand who makes the laws and how they come into being, maybe some legislators from his party need to sit him down and explain it to him. It would be quite difficult for any law to have been passed yesterday because the General Assembly isn’t meeting.

So, here’s my question for you, lawmakers: Do you feel certain that Haslam understands and respects the job you do? Because from where I’m sitting, he appears to not know the difference between a law and a rule.

Also, I continue my belief that this makes the governor look like a wuss. He’s afraid of fifty people because they’re dirty? Because crimes have been committed against them? Well, hell, Haslam, that’s a lot of people in your state. You going to hide in your limo for the rest of your term?

Honestly, This Should Concern Everyone in Nashville

Woods has an extended excerpt from Gibbons’ press conference today. Let me just highlight this:

Well, really that’s something you need to ask General Services. I’m aware generally of the reasons and that was public safety and health conditions on the Plaza. And I am aware of the fact that representatives of the protesters themselves approached the state earlier this week asking for some assistance addressing the problems they were facing. They were concerned about public safety. They were concerned about health concerns. The policy that’s in place I think is a very reasonable policy that will allow the protesters to continue to peacefully assemble under the right circumstances. What the Department of General Services was trying to do was strike a balance to ensure they had the right to peacefully protest but at the same time address the concerns they had as well as others over public safety and health concerns. [bold is mine]

Holy shit. This administration thinks that they get to determine the “right” circumstances for peaceful assembly? That makes my blood run cold.

Oh, and then get this nonsense.

Q: Commissioner, if you follow the letter of the policy, it says the Plaza is closed at 10 o’clock. Does that mean people who attend an event at TPAC can’t walk across the Plaza afterward?

Gibbons: Well, there’s also somewhere in here it says without specific authorization. I cannot speak for the Department of General Services on that but obviously they going to take the approach where if there is an event where they want to make an exception and authorize people to be there at 10:30 or 11, well I’m sure the Department of General Service will work with folks on that.

This is so typical. I love you, Tennessee, but the amount of people who think that everything they think is wrong should be illegal, but that they should get to make exceptions for the “right” kind of people is out of control.

But please, notice that the Governor is afraid of fifty people. Other Occupies have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people. And our governor has to sneak up on fifty people in the dead of night.

But what’s worse than sneaking up on fifty people in the middle of the night is stripping everyone in the state of their constitutional right to peaceably assemble.

That hurts everyone.

My Correspondence with the Governor’s Office

This morning I wrote:

Dear Governor Haslam,

Setting time limits and monetary requirements on when people are allowed to gather on taxpayer-funded state property to exercise their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances is unconstitutional.

Having people arrested for not following your unconstitutional rules is morally bankrupt and bad manners.

Shame on you. You know better.

Betsy Phillips

They wrote:

October 28, 2011

Dear Betsy:

Thank you for writing to Governor Haslam and sharing your concerns regarding the Occupy Nashville protests.  Listening to and learning from Tennesseans is very important to us, and we appreciate hearing from you.

We all have a right to peaceably assemble, and those assemblies should be safe, sanitary, and non-destructive.

Criminal activity and deteriorating sanitary conditions over the past several days on Legislative Plaza created an environment that is unsafe for the protestors, state employees, and everyone who lives, works and enjoys downtown Nashville.  Therefore, permits will be granted to protestors on a daily basis from 9:00am until 4:00pm.

While this administration wholeheartedly supports freedom of speech, assembly and petition, it is our responsibility to keep people safe on state property.  Abiding by these hours allows for a safe event, while ensuring the people’s right to peaceably assemble.

Again, thank you for writing.  We look forward to working with you and all Tennesseans to make our great state an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

Kindest regards,

The Governor’s Office of Constituent Services

I wrote:

I notice that you didn’t address how you’re charging Tennessee taxpayers to peaceably assemble.

Also, when the crimes are being committed AGAINST the protesters, infringing on the rights of the protesters rather than protecting them reeks of victim blaming.

I saw on the news last night that THP will provide officers for free for entertainers and athletes who need their protection.

It is a shame these poor kids don’t warrant the same consideration. Instead, they get arrested.

Is it just because they lack a bus?


Betsy Phillips

It Must Be So Awesome to be a Rich Person in Tennessee

Last night on Channel 5, they aired a story about how all entertainers and sports figures and people who are friends with people in the government need to do in order to get a THP escort anywhere is call and ask.

And then the taxpayers pay for it.

Yes, if you are Joe Rockstar and you want a THP escort from the Bridgestone Arena to your hotel in Franklin, taxpayers will foot the bill. It doesn’t cost you a dime.

But if you want to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of your grievances? A right guaranteed to us all–even the poor people–in the Constitution, Tennessee now thinks they can say when you can protest–conveniently during work hours for most people, charge you for protesting–$65 a day, and require you to carry a million dollars in liability insurance.

To use land bought and paid for by taxpayers.

And who in Tennessee isn’t a taxpayer?

So, you pay for it and then have to pay to use it.

Honestly, I return to the thought I had earlier–most people do not understand the rules we’ve agreed to live under and, in the cases when they do, they don’t like it.

So, here are a bunch of folks sitting out on legislative plaza–a public space owned by the state–protesting. For weeks. This is their constitutional right–to assemble and petition the government. There’s no time limit in the Constitution. No wording on how long they can be there or how it’s cool if they have to pay.

And Haslam’s administration decides to start charging them–Tennessee taxpayers who already pay through their tax dollars for Legislative Plaza–to use Legislative Plaza to exercise their First Amendment rights.

And you know what? It doesn’t matter if they’re “outside agitators,” which they are not, because everyone who purchases something in Tennessee becomes as much of a tax payer as people who live here. Welcome to Tennessee, where your stake as a tourist for as long as you’re here is as great as my stake as a resident.

And the thing is that, as much as I like to believe that Haslam and his buddies are a bunch of nincompoops, they aren’t. Every single one of them knows (and now it seems that the courts may agree) that you can’t have Free Speech that the government dictates the time, place, cost, and expression of.

They just don’t like it. So, they ignore any obligation they have as political leaders to try to find some Constitutional solution (I’m guessing because that Constitutional solution is “Wait for it to get so cold that they go home.”) and just go straight for the Cartman-esque “I do what I want.”

And they get to.

It just makes me so angry. If you don’t like the Constitution, work to change it. If you like the Bill of Rights when it applies to your side, then grow the fuck up and defend it when it’s invoked rightly by your political opponents. And if you can’t live by the law, don’t run for office.

So, just to clarify, now in Tennessee, in order to exercise your Constitutional rights, you have to pay to play.

If that’s not deeply corrupt, I just don’t know what is.