Several Memphians figured in news coverage of dramatic protests of anti-union legislation in Nashville’s Legislative Plaza Tuesday as another, less noticed rally in support of such protests went on in the headquarters building of the Memphis Education Association."
In video footage shot by WTVF-TV, News Channel 5, in Nashville, Jacob Flowers, executive director of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, is interviewed following the arrest and physical removal of seven demonstrators, students from the Univesity of Memphis and Memphis College of Art, from a room where the state Senate’s Commerce Committee was conducting a hearing.
The demonstrators had been part of a crowd of nearly 1,000 union sympathizers who had protested in the outdoor mall of Legislative Plaza what they called “union-busting” legislation under way in the General Assembly.
After the rally concluded, several crowd members made their way into Legislative Plaza. A group of them entered the Commerce Committee hearing room and began to chant “Shame, Shame, Shame!” and other slogans about the offending legislation. State troopers were ultimately called in to remove the seven who refused to leave the room.
Flowers told WTVF, “These are citizens who came to Nashville to express their beliefs to their elected representatives. They were not being heard, so they raised their voices even louder. When they did that, they were forcibly ejected fro the chamber.”
Gibbons, the former District Attorney General for Memphis who now serves as state Safety Commissioner told the station, “The committees have a right to proceed with their business, and if people disrupt that and don’t allow committees to go forward, then they should be arrested and properly prosecuted.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Blountville issued a statement: "The right of all citizens to protest and assemble peacefully is sacred in the State of Tennessee. 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."
(The WTVF coverage can be seen here.)
Later Tuesday afternoon in Memphis, a modestly-sized crowd of some 50 gathered at MEA headquarters to protest anti-union legislation in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and other national sites. The rally was billed as the first in a series organized by the left-leaning activist group moveon.org.
Among the speakers at the Memphis rally were Lexie Carter, one of the organizers; Keith Williams, local MEA president; Deidre Malone, former county commissioner, owner of a P.R. company, and Democratic activist; local Democratic chairman Van Turner; and Randy Wade, field representative for 9th Distict congressman Steve Cohen.
“The middle class has been targeted, and we can’t stand for it,” Malone told the crowd. “I’ve been through one war, and I’m ready to go through another,” said Wade at the close of an impassioned oration on behalf of teachers and other union employees. “When they start with TEA or NEA, they’re going to come after IBEW, they’re going to come after the Teamsters….This is just th e beginning. We have to stop them right now,” warned Turner.