State Officials Respond to the Protest Bill
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Governor Bill Lee has signed the protest related bill, creating harsher penalties for protesters. The Tennessee Caucus of Black State Legislators considers it a major step back in criminal justice reform.
“If there are bad apples in the group -with all of the technology we have- those people can be identified and weeded out. But to put that label on everyone, I think it’s inappropriate” said State Representative Yusuf Hakeem.
Rep. Hakeem says at the very least, the house could have considered different penalty options.
Currently protesters will be charged for a felony for camping on state property.
“The offenses that were put on, are more egregious than than people who commit domestic violence or sex crimes” said Rep. Hakeem.
In July Cameron Williams and other demonstrators turned themselves in to authorities for obstructing an emergency vehicle.
At the time, the penalty was a misdemeanor. Now it’s a felony.
“We will never block a true first responder” said Williams. “They will use it as a technicality to say that if you’re blocking a police vehicle, that you’re blocking a first responder and try to trump up charges.”
News 12 asked Senator Todd Gardenhire if there is any consideration to adjust the legislation’s harsh penalities.
“There is never a law that we pass that is absolutely correct the first time” said Sen. Gardenhire.
Senator Gardenhire says the legislation doesn’t prevent demonstrators from camping on state property completely, “You can camp on state property now. That’s the fallacy that’s being told. you can camp on it but you have to get approval to do it.”
Representative Hakeem expects a meeting to be set up with Governor Lee this upcoming week.
Cameron Williams tells News 12 that protesters in Chattanooga plan to join forces with other activists around the state of Tennessee.