Hundreds protest as Haslam delivers State of the State speech

While Gov. Bill Haslam delivered his State of the State speech Monday evening, hundreds of protesters were on hand outside the House chamber and their chants were sometimes audible within, reports WPLN.

Their mantra was “We are watching you,” delivered in a slow, hushed chant — like a group whispering en masse — holding signs with intense eyes. The vow of demonstrators was to keep tabs on state lawmakers on a range of hot-button subjects, such as abortion, guns and religious freedom.

…Much of the demonstration keyed off of moves made by President Donald Trump and federal policies. But some, like William Moore, 44, of South Nashville, also oppose state measures.

“They can’t keep passing hate-filled regulations under the auspices of faith and belief,” he said. “We won’t stand for it.”

Moore, who described himself as a recovering addict, specifically spoke of a Senate bill that he worries will meddle with regulations for counselors.

Demonstrators also sang songs and occasionally cheered for some lawmakers as they entered for Haslam’s speech. But another message was clear when the elected officials departed, as the chant turned to a raucous, “You work for us!”

The governor did not touch on the subjects that were fueling demonstrators — like the president’s refugee ban.

Later, Democratic lawmakers called the turnout “unprecedented,” and asked for ongoing participation, including in elections.

“I thought you did an excellent job getting your message out,” Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, told a group of demonstrators afterward. “We know you are watching, and we want to do what’s best for the people of our state, from the rural areas to the urban areas, to folks of all income means and folks of all status of life.”

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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