protests

Update on TN civil war over Confederate statutes

In Chattanooga Sunday, a protest march was staged to urge removal of Confederate Gen. Alexander P. Stewart’s bust from the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn with a smaller group of counter-protesters on hand, reports the Times Free Press.

In Knoxville, meanwhile, former mayor Victor Ashe revisits the State Capitol Commission’s vote against Gov. Bill Haslam’s request to move a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the lobby between the state House and Senate chambers.

And the Tennessee Historical Commission has postponed its vote on relocating a Forrest statute in Memphis. Originally scheduled for Oct. 13, it now won’t come until February of next year at the earliest, reports the Memphis Flyer.

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Anthem flap inspires Haslam bashing by Beavers, Breitbart

Former Sen. Mae Beavers, now running for governor, and Breitbart News are making an issue of the Haslam family’s comments on the ongoing national anthem controversy in the National Football League. Beavers says Randy Boyd, one of her GOP primary opponents, should return any contributions received from the governor’s family.

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Anthem protests inspire TN legislation; Titans boycott by one senator

Citing cases of “overt disrespect to our national anthem and flag,” State Rep. Judd Matheny has filed legislation that would block state government from providing funding or economic incentives to professional sport teams and privately-owned amateur teams. Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is currently a candidate for the 6th Congressional District seat.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, meanwhile, says he’s boycotting Tennessee Titans games and will donate funds equal to the cost of five tickets to charities.

News releases from both legislators are below.

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Haslam backs both sides in sports controversies (well, sorta)

Gov. Bill Haslam offers decidedly middle-of-the-road comments on the controversy over NFL football player national anthem protests in a lengthy interview with The Tennessean on sports and politics – a contrast to his brother, James A. “Jimmy” Haslam III.

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Knoxville event draws few Confederate monument backers, many counter-protesters

Demonstrators supporting a Confederate monument in Knoxville Saturday were vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters, reports the News Sentinel. Both sides were generally peaceful.

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Memphis police block Forrest cover-up, arrest eight protesters

Police twice blocked protester efforts to cover a Memphis monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest on Saturday, then arrested several participants and dispersed the angry crowd, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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Backlash develops over bills limiting liability of motorists hitting protesters (TN version scuttled)

Excerpt from an Associated Press story on the “intense backlash” that has developed over Republican-sponsored bills in state legislatures that limit the liability of motorists who hit protesters following last weekend’s Charlottesville, Va., episode:

The debate over Tennessee’s bill, which would have shielded drivers exercising “due care,” showed how the measures have been divisive.

During a March hearing, Democratic Rep. G.A. Hardaway said he worried the law would allow extremists to deliberately attack protesters and then claim it was accidental. He cited social media posts from Trump supporters that suggested the bill would make it legal to “run down protesters” when the president visited Tennessee.

“It was providing them the type of motivation, inspiration to get out there and be violent,” he said. “Those who seek to harm others, they think this gives them cover.”

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Protesters urge removal of N.B. Forrest bust; Haslam backs the idea

After demonstrators at the Tennessee state capitol called for removing a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest now housed in the building today, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a statement saying he favors the idea. The protest — like others around the nation — was partly inspired by last weekend’s violent events in Charlottesville, Va., involving protests and counter-protests over removing a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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After disabled vet’s protest, Roe to look into modifying Veterans Administration pain management policy

A week after U.S. Rep. Phil Roe became the target of a disabled veteran’s public protest, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs has responded to a Johnson City Press request for his views on the subject in issue – the VA’s policy on pain management drugs. As committee chair, Roe says he will look into the need for revisions to the policy.

Robert Rose, who suffered severe spinal injuries while serving as a U.S. Marine, turned his wheelchair to face away from Roe as the congressman delivered a speech on his support for veterans July 3 at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home. The newspaper reported at the time that Rose was “in visible pain” while showing “clear contempt” for Roe with the maneuver.

Rose said the VA’s “Opioid Safety Initiative,” implemented five years ago, has left him without the medication needed to combat chronic pain. On Monday, Roe sent the newspaper an email offering sympathy but declaring Rose’s criticism was unwarranted. Excerpt from today’s Press story:

“While I support the goals of this initiative and applaud the VA for taking steps to curb dependence on opioids, I also have been made aware of many concerns from veterans like Mr. Rose that necessary pain management may have been reduced or eliminated too quickly and will conduct oversight through my position as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as to whether the policy needs to be modified,” Roe wrote.

…The congressman complained in his email that he was not afforded the opportunity to respond to Rose’s criticisms. Roe was not available immediately following Rose’s comments to the Press, and the Press’ efforts to reach Roe and his staff on July 3 were unsuccessful.

The Press again contacted Roe’s office on Monday to request an interview. Lani Short, his press secretary, said the congressman would be unavailable because Roe’s schedule was “especially full.” Short said “everything he would say is found in the letter below,” referring to Roe’s email.

TN civil rights intimidation law challenged in gorilla mask protest at ETSU

The validity of Tennessee’s law prohibiting civil rights intimidation will be challenged by the attorney for a former East Tennessee State University student charged under the statute after appearing at a Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a string of bananas, reports the Johnson City Press.

Patrick Denton is representing Tristan Rettke, 19, who was also indicted on charges of disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing on the charges was held Tuesday.

“This was a counter protest in a free-speech zone on campus,” Denton said after the hearing. “There’s no way that his free speech should have been criminalized. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to taint the jury pool.”

Rettke’s charges stem from a Sept. 28, 2016, incident when he showed up at a Black Lives Matter demonstration dressed in overalls and a gorilla mask while carrying bananas with string tied around them in a burlap bag with the Confederate flag on it.

The demonstration was held at Borchuck Plaza, outside Sherrod Library on the Johnson City campus, previously designated a free-speech zone. It’s supposed to be a location where students can freely express themselves without being harassed or intimidated. But several students participating in the demonstration said that’s exactly how they felt when the gorilla mask-clad man showed up — harassed and intimidated.

Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice told prosecutors they should give notice to the state attorney general’s office about Denton’s promised motion. Because the motion will challenge the constitutionality of state law, the attorney general’s office will handle it on behalf of the legislature.