News & Politics

Nashville Protesters Set Up 'Autonomous Zone,' Governor Says It 'Will Not Be Tolerated'

Republican Bill Lee speaks at the gubernatorial debate at the University of Memphis' Michael D. Rose Theater in Memphis, Tenn., on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Lee and Democrat Karl Dean square off in a debate in the governor's race in Tennessee. (Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal via AP, Pool)

Police brutality protesters have taken over the plaza in front of the capitol building in Nashville, proclaiming it an “autonomous zone.” About 50 protesters are camping out in the plaza in front of the capitol building in an effort to duplicate the efforts to establish an “autonomous zone” in Seattle.

But while the Seattle mayor and Washington governor have both approached the protests with disinterest, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee appears to be made of sterner stuff.

Tennessean:

Ahead of the protest, Gov. Bill Lee issued a warning that autonomous zones “will not be tolerated.”

“We encourage Tennesseans to exercise their First Amendment rights and have seen many examples of peaceful protests across our state in recent weeks,” Lee said in a statement midday Friday. “As demonstrations continue, we will continue to protect Tennesseans’ right to peaceful assembly, while also reassuring citizens that lawlessness, autonomous zones, and violence will not be tolerated.

The squatters also renamed the plaza from the Edward Carmack Plaza to the Ida B. Wells Plaza.

Carmack, a race-baiting, fire-eating newspaper editor, incited a mob to attack Well’s newspaper offices in Memphis. Protesters pulled down his statue in May.

As the crowd of squatters began to gather, state police stood by and did nothing.

The crowd brought chairs, tables and a few tents to set up camp while state troopers watched. Despite Lee’s warning and state law prohibiting camping on state property in undesignated areas, by 10 p.m. demonstrators weren’t asked to leave.

Authorities are terrified. The situation is a tinder box and it wouldn’t take much of an incident to set off the mob.

Meanwhile, back in the autonomous zone, it’s party time.

For hours Friday, the group chanted the names of Black men and women killed by law enforcement, sang hymns and other songs and worked on promoting creativity in the space.

People blew bubbles, free books were distributed, signs and banners were made, and musicians brought instruments to play tunes for the crowd. The group offered a festival vibe.

Demonstrators hung signs around the Capitol and drew messages in chalk.

“We have an insensitive sick America,” said Venita Lewis. “There’s no more hiding all of this hate.”

Governor Lee may have the best of intentions but the state police should have intervened when they saw the first tent going up. Now, it’s too late. Evicting the squatters would generate sympathy for them and could easily get out of hand. You have to think there are those in that crowd of well-meaning but deluded people that there are hard-hearted, gimlet-eyed radicals ready to turn any effort at eviction into a riot.

Mob control today is all about “de-escalation” and managing the destruction. It’s an improvement over cops wading into crowds swinging their batons hitting the guilty and innocent alike, but it’s a far cry from maintaining order. It’s ironic that the mobs want “justice” when they are creating conditions where justice cannot thrive. No order, no justice. No order, no peace. That they can’t grasp that simple concept should frighten all of us.

It’s silly for 50 people to believe they live in a utopian “police-free zone” when shootings, and robberies, and rapes are going on just a few blocks away. Their “autonomous zone” proves nothing and only adds to the level of their self-delusion.

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