My words do not do justice to the Tom Foolery of Tennessee State government, so I have just reprinted the article. (Otherwise, no one would believe this!)
State lawmakers don't control city sidewalks Bill would allow legislative leaders to decide which protests to tolerate City sidewalks exist for the benefit of all people — lawmakers, state workers, pedestrians, immigrants, business people, the homeless and, certainly, protesters.
A bill introduced into the General Assembly ignores that fact, treating the area around the state Capitol as the private realm of lawmakers. Wisely, Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, is attempting to amend the bill to make it more respectful of constitutional rights. A wiser solution still would be to dump the bill altogether.
The legislation was sparked by the protest last month of the group American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, or ADAPT. Protesters in wheelchairs clogged sidewalks and streets around the Capitol much of the day, making it impossible for some state employees to exit from their buildings. ADAPT wanted to talk to Gov. Phil Bredesen about the lack of home- and community-based care for the elderly and disabled.
As a result, Sen. Jerry Cooper, D-Smartt, Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and others dropped legislation into the Senate hopper that gave the House and Senate speakers, acting jointly, the power to direct the highway patrol to assume control of traffic on streets, intersections and sidewalks around the Capitol.
Certainly, the tactics of ADAPT enraged many state workers and many Nashvillians. Even some observers, including this page, who agree that Tennessee provides too few options for the elderly and disabled criticized the group for causing such havoc in downtown Nashville.
But giving the legislative leaders the power to declare city sidewalks off-limits to citizens is a solution far worse than the problem.
Moreover, last month the protesters were motivated by the state's health-care policy. Next month, they may be protesting for or against abortion rights or the war in Iraq or a tax-increase proposal or the pending execution of an inmate on death row or a lack of funding for education. The legislation just begs for legislative leaders to pick and choose which protests would be tolerated and which would not.
Several years ago, horn-honking protesters circled the Capitol in their cars in an effort — ultimately successful — to derail a state income tax. Workers in downtown buildings complained that the noise was so loud that it disrupted their work. If memory serves, no member of the General Assembly suggested a bill that would have denied the rights of those individuals.
Protests can be disruptive. There are already laws on the books, however, that allow police to clear streets to ensure the flow of traffic. Metro police and state troopers can work together so that future protesters make their point without barricading workers in their parking garages. They don't need the help of Big Brother. •
Here are pictures from the Tennessean newspaper on the action.