7 Arrested After Disrupting Senate Committee Hearing
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Seven union supporters were arrested and charged following an outburst inside a Senate Committee Hearing.
Troopers at the Tennessee Capitol had to forcibly carry out the protestors who were among a group who stood up during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday and began chants about what they called "union busting" by the state Legislature.
Most demonstrators left the hearing room after about 30 minutes, but a small group tried to lock arms to keep from being removed.
"I see civil disobedience as an obligation that we have when we see injustices in the world," said protester Jared Story.
Troopers pulled the holdouts out of the room one by one, while lawmakers, lobbyists and other observers looked on.
The protesters claim they are standing up for the rights of Tennessee workers.
"And unfortunately we have certain members of the Tennessee House and Senate that would like to take away those rights from people," according to protester Jacob Flowers.
The ones that were arrested were held inside a room right outside the meeting room. They were interrogated by Capitol Police. Those protestors are now facing misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges, and some are facing charges of resisting arrest.
Six of the people arrested were from the Memphis area, the seventh person was from Chattanooga.
"These are citizens that 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 from the chamber," said Flowers.
"The committees have a right to proceed with their business, and if people disrupt that and don't allow committees to move forward, then they should be arrested and properly prosecuted," said Dept. of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon on protestors:
"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 arrests came after more than a thousand labor supporters gathered outside the Tennessee Capitol to protest against a measure to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights.
The protesters waved signs, listened to a series of speakers and sang pro-union songs. Tuesday's rally was organized by a coalition of nearly two dozen faith, community and labor organizations.
The situation took an unexpected turn when protestors started to surround the state capitol and then they demanded to be let inside.
State troopers at first held them at bay, and then it was decided 75 of those protestors would be let inside, as long as they didn't chant or make any noise.
They waited near the office door of Governor Bill Haslam, who didn't come out to talk to the group.
"And they will not allow us to chant, or make any expressions, and I feel like that is a violation of freedom of speech. We have a right to be here, this is the people's house," said protestor Darrell Bouldin.
Tamara Henderson's daughter Ash-Lee was one of the protesters police arrested Tuesday.
"There's no doubt that Ash-Lee is courageous. She's my hero," Henderson said.
At 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, those protesters were still waiting to go through night court in Nashville.