Tennessee NAACP Asks Governor Lee To Veto Bill "Criminalizing Peaceful Protests"

  • Monday, August 17, 2020

The Tennessee NAACP is asking Governor Bill Lee to veto the bill passed during the recent special legislative session that "criminalizes peaceful protest."

The group said, "On Wednesday, August 12, 2020, the Republican majority General Assembly passed legislation that increases penalties aimed at protesters.  The most damaging one of all to Tennessee citizens makes it a felony punishable from one to six years in prison for setting up a tent and camping between 10 p.m.-7 a.m.

"Presently, camping outside the Capitol is a misdemeanor.  If Governor Lee signs into law the legislation that the Tennessee General Assembly passed, this nonviolent offense will carry a felony if convicted. A felony will cause those convicted to lose their right to vote, forfeit or prevent the convicted resident from obtaining a professional license.

"The legislation also mandates that vandalism of state property, such as writing with chalk on buildings and disrupting meetings, will result in protestors being held for a mandatory of 12 hours without bond.  Not only will this bill have a 'chilling effect' on peaceful protesters, it will cost Tennessee taxpayers approximately $1.3 million to enforce at the state and local level.

"The bill is a direct contradictory of Governor Lee’s promise to reform the Tennessee criminal justice system.  It is exceedingly difficult for a person to have a felony removed from their record in Tennessee.  In addition, a felony conviction in Tennessee will hinder a resident from getting into colleges and universities, holding meaningful employment, obtaining housing and prevent families from being together.  Already, Tennessee’s incarceration rate is above the national average." 

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