Protesters arrested following disruption of committee hearing

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 6:02pm

Capitol police arrested seven protesters from a state Senate committee meeting room Tuesday for disrupting hearings about legislation curtailing unions.

Authorities said they charged each of the seven who were removed from the committee room with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Witnesses said they believed that the protesters were affiliated with the groups Chattanooga Organized for Action and Progressive Student Alliance. The demonstrators included students from the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis.

"The legislation to outlaw collective bargaining is nothing short than an attack on the right of workers to organize in the workplace and take collective action to better their working conditions," Chris Brooks, lead organizer of Chattanooga Organized for Action, said in a release. "To use the current economic crisis and state deficit as a cover to attack teachers, police officers, firefighters and all other public sectors workers is absolutely absurd. Organizing is a fundamental human right."

At first Capitol police asked the protesters to leave. But when they would not comply some were forcibily removed after having attempted to link arms and remain in the room. One witness said they "played dead," not offering resistance to law enforcement but still forcing them to have to be carried out.

Only a few were removed in this manner, and the other protesters eventually complied.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey condemned the demonstration, which he likened to the protests over the rights of public-sector unions in Wisconsin.

“The right of all citizens to protest and assemble peacefully is sacred in the State of Tennessee,” Ramsey said in a statement. “However, this General Assembly will not be intimidated by nomadic bands of professional agitators on spring break bent on disruption. We talk through our differences here. Tennessee is not Wisconsin.”

In the Senate Commerce Committee hearing, as many as three dozen protesters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, union busting has got to go” as lawmakers prepared to take up their bills, including one that would bar unions from using dues to pay for political activities.

Mary Mancini, one of the organizers of a rally that occured earlier in the day at the plaza, told The City Paper the demonstration shows "how upset people are that they [legislators] are attacking the hard working people of Tennessee."

"They were not union members; they are student volunteers. Will they listen to the thousands of union members to create quality jobs, generate revenue for much needed public services, and stop the attack on hard working Tennesseans who provide those services?"

Earlier Tuesday, hundreds of union supporters gathered outside Legislative Plaza and rallied against anti-union bills now before the legislature.

Paramount among their concerns is a bill that would end collective bargaining between teachers’ unions and school systems. State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, was among several legislators on hand to show support for the cause.

“The bill, House Bill 130, is not an education bill,” Stewart told The City Paper. “It is part of a national anti-union effort funded by some national Republicans. One of these days we will learn to stop fighting all our political battles in the schools and let the teachers teach our children.”

Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, took the stage and introduced labor activists from unions ranging from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to the Teamsters, as the crowd cheered their approval.

Similarly, Al Mance, executive director of the Tennessee Education Association, excoriated Republicans in the legislature for what he feels is an attack on the working class and reminded rally attendees that they must show elected officials who is boss at the polls in the 2012 elections.

Rank-and-file workers made their voices heard, too.

Thelma Ritter, a custodial worker at the University of Memphis, proclaimed, “We need more money in our paychecks!” and demanded that public employees receive a living wage.

Bo McCurry, an electrical worker from Sparta, told the crowd that labor must keep up the fight for jobs, and asked for help in trying to keep a Philips electronics plant in his hometown from moving to Mexico.

According to A.J. Starling, director of TN AFL-CIO, participants in Tuesday’s rally came from all over the state to stand together.

“I feel good about today’s effort,” Starling said. “Support for workers’ rights is on the rise and our membership is waking up.”

Pro-labor activists will have a chance to again show their support, as another rally has been called for March 23. A coalition of organizations including Common Cause, Tennesseans for Fair Taxation and Tennessee Citizen Action has formed a group called “Tennessee Priorities” and is sponsoring the rally and a day of lobbying legislators.

Filed under: City News

29 Comments on this post:

By: cw1230 on 3/15/11 at 6:19

Well, it seems our very own representatives haven't bothered to read the Tennesseee Constitution.

Article 1, Sec. 1:

All power inherent in the people — Government under their control. —

That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.

Article 1, Sec. 23:

Right of assembly. —

That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance.

To thine own self be true. ~ William Shakespeare

By: TITAN1 on 3/16/11 at 4:39

It stopped being a peaceful demonstration when they took it inside and started disrupting the meeting.

By: treehugger7 on 3/16/11 at 6:28

I am pleased that we have brave people who will stand up for what is right--and I'm not talking about the legislators. The assault on workers must stop. Stop kowtowing to the right, and do right by the people. That would be JOBS! Let the people who have them be treated right. That would be allowing people to negotiate for wages and benefits--the rights my parents and grandparents fought for. Using the "deficit" as an excuse is garbage! Thank you to all who fought the good fight yesterday!

By: Nitzche on 3/16/11 at 7:47


By: foxman on 3/16/11 at 8:09

These little liberal punks need to get a real job & quit disrupting state business. Fight the good fight, i'm laughing my ass off.

By: frodo on 3/16/11 at 8:37

cw, you rather stretch the definitions of "order" and "power inherent in the people." What happened the other day was not orderly. And people power? We who voted exercised some of our power, and a bunch of "little liberal punks," as foxman adroitly puts it, should not be allowed to overturn my rights to elect a legislature and see it provide for an orderly process of redress. Simply stated, the TN constitution is not a license for anarchy or rule of the mob.

By: howelln on 3/16/11 at 9:18

If students and teachers wish to use their spring break to protest these egregious actions, then they have the right to do this. My favorite idiotic response of "get a job" came when the teachers were assembling on a Saturday. Not every one have a 9-5, Monday - Friday job. I am betting that more of the people in the pro-union crowd have jobs than those in the anti-union.

By: cl74 on 3/16/11 at 9:20

Nitzche, Foxman and Frodo I think you would have a much different feelings about this if you or your spouse was a teacher or in the education field. Foxman you said these students "need to get a real job", they are college students that is getting an education to teach our children, that my friend is not only a real job but one of the most important job that is in this country. I also wonder why republicans are always so quick to judge who is liberal and who is not apparently who votes and who don't. Frodo said "we who voted" how do you know that everyone at the rally didn't vote? How do you know everyone at the rally did not vote republican? Why judge people?

By: frodo on 3/16/11 at 9:48

Nitz, I'm fine with the idea that members of the mob voted. So, okay, then they voted. So why do they (or you) think their rights are being trampled just because the duly elected representatives insist upon order in the legislative chambers?

By: frodo on 3/16/11 at 9:50

And my spouse WAS a teacher...and we were not in favor then of the politicization of the public workforce.

By: yucchhii on 3/16/11 at 10:15

Ahhhhh, C'MON PEOPLE! HOW MANY TIMES MUST YOU BE SLAPPED IN THE FACE BEFORE YOU WAKE UP? The government is taking your rights away from you and your just handing them over and saying "It's ok, here, have mine!" The government is doing this right in front of your face and you don't see it! When all our rights to EVERYTHING is gone, WILL YOU BITCH THEN? TOO LATE THEN!!!!!!

By: cl74 on 3/16/11 at 10:17

Frodo the problem with this is it should not be in the legislative to start with. Here is what is going to happen. They are 1000's of teachers that are within a few years of retirement, if this passes and teachers lose their tenure those teachers will be let go and will lose most if not all retirement benefits. Typical government talking about useless garbage when they should be talking about how to improve the schools, the programs, bring money into the schools, pay teachers more, bring jobs into the state. This is just an example why our government has gone down hill and has brought our great country down with it. Republicans and Democrat are both guilty of this neither side is better than the other, until they work together the country will never recover. Government is just like a marriage if you don't work together it will never last and our government just like almost 40% of marriages has failed.

By: girliegirl on 3/16/11 at 10:19

I'm with Titan. TEA Party members did not become violent, we never forced our way into a building, nor did we "fist pump" and ....honestly, my little boy said that those people seemed spooky to him. TEA Party attendees were hugging each other, signing posters and petitions, taking photographs, eating looked like more of an Art Festival if anything. Seems it's just a difference in moral character here.

By: Radix on 3/16/11 at 10:26

These people are promoting communism and undermining the economy, saying its "for the children", and "protecting teachers". Don't be fooled. I come from a family of teachers, and they are underpaid, but unions are slush funds for ultra-liberal politicians, at the expense of teachers and workers.

If you want Communism, go to a country where they already have it, like Venezuela or North Korea. Quit trying to turn us all into Detroit.

Unions hurt workers! Competition makes us stronger!

By: gdiafante on 3/16/11 at 10:47

Thanks for the laugh, girlie...have you ever auditioned for Zanies?

By: girliegirl on 3/16/11 at 10:54

:-) Hey, humor is where you can find it these days.

By: girliegirl on 3/16/11 at 10:56

Sorry, Gdia, but the TEA Parties were actually fun. I have pictures posted on FaceBook and everyone is having a good time, not being spooky, not yelling "death threats" like they did in Wisconsin. Loons belong on a lake in Michigan, not in the Capitol Bldg. LOL

By: frodo on 3/16/11 at 11:04

c'mon, gdiaf, is that the best you can do?

yucchhi, the analogy to a marriage works as far as it goes. But with the teacher's union / government employer they get the people elected who they then negotiate with for pay and benefits...this is more like the husband (elected representatives) taking money from his wife (taxpayers) and paying the, er, "business woman" who gives the husband what he wants...get re-elected. The current elected officials are just trying to roll back some of that dysfunction to where elected officials are responsible to the taxpayers and not to the lady-with-benefits down the street.

By: GUARDIAN on 3/16/11 at 11:49

GUARDIAN- :) that's the wa to do it. Lock them up and let there be a big fine and lots of court cost.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/16/11 at 12:46

Moonglow1. Power to the people. Notice today that the governor is allocating 40. Million for charter schools. Why??? Let us go one step further like they are in WI and hit the financial bottom line of corporate & banking interests of major Republican Tea Party donors. Do not buy their products or services. Boycott them.

By: frodo on 3/16/11 at 1:00

Moonglow, yeah, cool, like let's boycott the gas station where you fill your tank so they'll go outa business. And Big Coffee, too. Let's boycott the coffee shop where you sit and sip so they'll go outa business. Oh, and the place where you buy your music and wacked out t-shirts...that'll show em! Then the Republican will shrivel up and we'll be back to the good old days of Sen. Ford , 'cause he was never in bed with business.

By: on 3/16/11 at 3:38

Will somebody please explain to me why secondary school teachers need tenure? Don't they teach from an approved lesson plan and textbooks? I can understand why University professors need tenure, they are allowed leeway to expand their students minds and thinking processes. They may explore ideas that may not correspond to accepted norms. But high school teachers shouldn't do that.

By: howelln on 3/16/11 at 4:03

Not all high school classes are the same. Most teachers have a great deal of leeway on which books to have as required reading. And everyone is not on the same page on the same day. I have seen teachers set up by poor administrators and angry parents and spoiled children. If anything, because of the number of extra-curricular activities with high school students, those teachers need it more.

By: BeauregardJLulz on 3/16/11 at 10:03

By: TITAN1 on 3/16/11 at 5:39
It stopped being a peaceful demonstration when they took it inside and started disrupting the meeting.

Wrong. It stopped being a peaceful meeting as soon as the Tea and Crackers Party troglodytes started attacking the right to bargain as a group, that has been the right of American citizens who work for nearly a hundred years. You want to talk about peaceful, look at these Teabaggers who violently disparage anyone who disagrees with their perverted view of the world. These fascist (and I'm not using that word lightly) are violent to the American dream and the American way of life. They must be shut down at every turn. They want Civil War. They are a pariah on our nation.

By: justice2003 on 3/18/11 at 11:47

Did you know that?Our tennessee state lawmakers are in no possistion to make our laws as long as they have allready broke thier oath as an officer of the court.In the tennessee supreame court ruling,they should themselves should be brought before the supreame court and given account to Corruption,falsicifing,Misconduct,and even Purgury for the crimes against humanity for the role they are playing in

By: justice2003 on 3/18/11 at 11:52

Did you know that?They themselves are only looking at the laws in which there making only to cover thier backs of the most serious charge they have allready committed and need to find court cases to back them up along with the help of our new governer.

By: consultmlcesq on 3/18/11 at 12:16

Let us not forget who is responsible for the anti-labor legislation which is sweeping the country - the newly elected GOP! Teabaggers and other fear and hate based associates, be careful what you ask for; you just might get it.

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