Thursday, March 17, 2011

Contempt for Students and Free Speech in Tennessee

UPDATE: State Senator Randy McNally of Oak Ridge wants the students who protested to be expelled from college. More contempt for free speech and students from the Republican-led legislature.


Hysteria and falsehoods from state officials flowed heavily when a group of Tennessee college students disrupted a legislative committee meeting this week - most troubling is the hateful attitude on display which shows pure contempt for free speech and civil disobedience. Oh, that awful civil disobedience ...

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the would-be Tea Party Governor, let fly a whopper:

The right of all citizens to protest and assemble peacefully is sacred in the State of Tennessee,” Ramsey said in a statement. “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.”

Yeah, those darn students!! Darn elitist education seekers!! Speaking out of turn!! Arrest them!! Jail them!!! Spring Break, boooooo!!! And it's so disappointing to hear a lifelong politician say we have "rights" - except when they are used. You can "talk through our differences" when we decide it is okay for you to talk.

Tom Humphrey covered the spectacle and the comments from readers stoke the hysteria:

Yes, these are the same thugs (Organized for America hoods) that were at the Union Rally at the Plaza on Mar.5th. Several walked up to us (the Counter-Protesters-read Tea Party) and asked "Ya wanna pick a fight"? They are being funded by (soros $) and are well-funded. They are being paid. These are Obama's "Army". Freedom & Rights for Them, no one else!"

But, as already noted, the protesters were just Tennessee students demanding a voice in how education policy is created:

The previous comment is a joke. I was one of the participants in the direction action today, and know all but a couple of the others very well. None of us were at the March 5 rally (not that we don't support the efforts of teachers to fight for their own rights) and we are certainly not connected to Organized for America in any way. OFA was/is an Obama support group that would never dream of endorsing a direct action such as what we pulled off today.

And as for us being well-funded (or funded at all), that's absolutely false. None of us have any connection to MoveOn, nor did we receive any funding whatsoever from any other source except our own jobs. We are just workers from all over the state who are tired of having our rights assaulted by the super rich and their legislative allies and decided to do something about it. I'm sad to see other workers join the Tea Party to support the interests of corporations over the interests of workers. Y'all are some very confused individuals. And everything you said in your comment is just straight up false and made up.

P. S. Most of us don't even like Obama. He refuses to stand up for working people, instead supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and spending cuts on programs that benefit ordinary people. I didn't vote for him in 2008 and I won't vote for him in 2012."

The truth is that very highly organized and fabulously wealthy business, corporate, and out-of-state groups get invited and seated at conference tables in legislative committee hearings, get called in as experts in their fields, are praised and lauded by elected officials -- and are not called "professional nomads of agitation", are they?

Every Tennessee legislator knows the education issues - from pre-school through college - are under intense scrutiny and residents and workers have rights to express their views, and even to peacefully protest and yes, even disrupt meetings. It's one way to petition government and demand representation.

To insult them - like Knoxville Senator Campfield or Lt. Gov. Ramsey - shows these "leaders" have nothing but contempt for the ideals of free speech, nothing but contempt for students and education.

On Wednesday, Gov. Haslam retreated from the national Republican plan to strip away all collective bargaining for teachers, which shows that he knows the national plan led by Wisconsin Gov. Walker has been a huge FAIL.

Legislation crafted by Gov. Haslam and Rep. Beth Harwell would allow collective bargaining for basic pay and benefits but still excludes several items Republicans, as a national party plan, want to remove, including the union's rights to make political donations from the dues of members.

Yet, even that proposal is pure political blackmail and goes against recent Supreme Court decisions regarding free speech for corporations and unions.

Rep. Glen Casada is leading the hypocritical forces in this shady tactic. His newest legislation proves it by claiming only one type of organized political financial donations - from corporations - should be allowed, while criminalizing organized workers and limiting their financial donations. Of course, labor unions tend to donate more to Democrats - Rep. Casada and the new Republicans in charge want to stop that cold.

His plan is to remove restrictions now in place on how much corporations can give directly to candidates - but he's already filed bills to make it illegal for unions to donate to political campaigns and to ban the ability of unions to use funds for any political donations.

Rep. Casada tells the Tennessean something very hypocritical in defense of his pro-corporate money plan:

However unions are treated, that's how corporations should be treated," Casada said. "That's my bottom line."

He then adds that he'll withdraw his anti-union bills if the legislature approves his pro-corporate one. Sounds like political blackmail.

All in all - it shows that free speech and political participation for the few and not all are being pushed into place.

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