Pictured Above is Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
On August 20nd, 2020 Tennesse Governor Bill Lee signed a bill that increases the penalty of protestors “camping” on land that is deemed to be state property. Upon reading that statement citizens might not necessarily understand the severity of the damage the bill will cause.
Before we get into what the bill is called and what penalties were specifically increased it is important to understand what is currently happening in Tennessee and what the protestors are demanding. Protestors have been “camping” outside of the Tennessee Capitol which is located in Nashville as they are requesting a meeting be set with Governor Bill Lee to discuss police relations (brutality) and racial injustices. The protestors have been waiting for a meeting to be set up since June.
Inhabitants of Tennessee are calling for the removal of statues and monuments that are representative of racist ideologies and that further illustrate the inequality, pain, and suffering that African Americans have endured for far too long. However, unlike many other states/ cities that have made the conscious decision to remove statues, the citizens of Tennessee are still fighting their battle as they are demanding the removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. It is located at the state capitol.
Forrest was a slave owner and trader as well as a leader of the KKK.
Legislators in Tennessee, specifically Randy McNally who was the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate at the time the bill was created argue that the purpose of passing the bill is to ensure that the government land doesn’t turn into an autonomous zone. An autonomous zone like the one that formed in Seattle, known as the CHOP zone. Refer to my blog titled “From Proactive to Responsive Policing: An Analysis of Seattle’s CHOP Zone and the Need for Police.”
The amount of time between when the bill was drafted and passed is remarkable.
1 week. That’s how long it took for the bill to be passed and signed. In comparison to everything that black people are calling for in terms of equality and the amount of years that we have been fighting for it completely demolishes the amount of time it took for a bill to pass to protect property and further criminalize black people and other protestors.
The Bill is titled HB 8005.
The bill increases the penalty for “camping” on state property from a misdemeanor to a felony. In the state of Tennessee felons don’t have the right to vote.
Stripping someone of their right to vote for peacefully protesting and “camping” out is the tip of a vicious cycle that criminalizes people for taking a stand and demanding change and justice.
Voting is a means to use our voices.
In what world does peacefully “camping” on grounds equate to a felony charge? A felony has detrimental effects on an individual’s quality of life. It essentially has the power to completely disarrange an entire life.
Without the right to vote one is stripped of not only their voice but in a sense their power. If someone can’t vote and they can’t protest, what can they do?
This is another example of those with power in society criminalizing the actions of those who have different interests than them in order to protect their interests.
Think about it, the protestors or campers fit into a certain demographic and if they are stripped of their right to vote that will have a major impact on elections on every level.
Overly criminalizing individuals strips them of nearly all of their power.
According to the bill protestors will be given a warning and if they then refuse to vacate the premises they will be charged with a felony.
I am not aware of the specifics as to why the governor won’t just hold a meeting and I will not assume or jump to conclusions and provide a reason. However, it does make me think and I hope it makes you think as well.
Would it not be easier to just hold the meeting rather than criminalizing people for protesting and trying to use their voices the best way that they know how to? Why not just meet with citizens rather than creating even more issues and giving them more of a reason to protest.
I am aware that camping is the word being used but I think it negates the reason of why the individuals are out on the grounds in the first place. They are protesting for equality. They are standing up for something meaningful and something that should be afforded to every individual in this country.
We can’t forget though that the reception, acceptation, and willingness to cooperate and allow protests to happen depends on what the protest is calling for. Whenever it’s about justice and equality it is always a problem.
Below are some parts of the bill that stood out to me, if you would like to read the entire bill I will leave the link below.
1.Under present law, a person who commits vandalism by knowingly damaging or destroying government property without consent is subject to punishment in the same manner as theft, based on the value of the property.
2. This bill creates the Class A misdemeanor offense of assault against a first responder who is discharging or attempting to discharge the first responder's official duties. This bill defines "first responder" to include law enforcement officers (specifically including state law enforcement officers), firefighters, emergency services personnel, and other persons who respond to 911 calls. A person commits this offense by knowingly causing bodily injury to the first responder or knowingly causing physical contact with the first responder that a reasonable person would regard as extremely offensive or provocative. The punishment for assault against a first responder will be a $5,000 fine and a mandatory-minimum 30-day jail sentence;
3.This bill creates the Class C felony offense of aggravated assault against a first responder who is discharging or attempting to discharge the first responder's official duties. A person commits this offense by committing assault against a first responder, as described in (2), and the assault results in serious bodily injury or death of the first responder, involved the use or display of a deadly weapon, or involved strangulation. The punishment for aggravated assault of a first responder will be a $15,000 fine and a mandatory minimum 90-day prison sentence;
4.This bill changes present law definitions applicable to the offenses of disorderly conduct and rioting to clarify that a person's mere assembling or presence at the scene of such an event does not constitute an offense;
5.Under present law, the offense of participation in a riot is a Class A misdemeanor. This bill imposes a mandatory minimum 30-day jail sentence for participation in a riot and an order of restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
6.This bill generally prohibits the release of a person arrested for any of the following offenses for 12 hours from the time of the arrest: camping on state property, vandalism of government property, rioting, aggravated rioting, inciting a riot, or obstructing a highway. A magistrate may release the defendant in less than 12 hours, if the magistrate makes written findings that the defendant is unlikely to resume the criminal activity based on the circumstances of the arrest and the defendant's criminal history; and