Warning from Governor Lee on potential occupiers of Capitol Hill property

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A warning from Governor Bill Lee for potential occupiers of property on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

It comes in the wake of protesters occupying a Seattle Police precinct and several blocks around it as an outgrowth of the nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis Police.

The governor’s statement said in part “We encourage Tennesseans to exercise their First Amendment rights…while also reassuring citizens that lawlessness, autonomous zones, and violence will not be tolerated.”

The governor added that those who might camp on Capitol Hill property like Occupy Nashville did 8-years ago would violate state law “and that law will be enforced.”

Several social media posts Friday have indicated that some might want to camp on Capitol Hill property as a form of protest.

A few members of the Occupy Nashville movement in 2011-2012 camped out for weeks on Legislative Plaza. That movement was referenced in a statement following the governor’s statement from Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“The General Assembly enacted laws after Occupy Nashville making it a Class A misdemeanor to occupy state property. I agree with Governor Lee’s decision to enforce our current laws, and the House is fully prepared to enhance this type of lawlessness to a felony before the 2020 legislative session concludes next week,” said the speaker in his statement.

Earlier in the day, House Democrats said they continue pursuing legislative action on racial justice and police reform spurred by Floyd’s death.

“We are offering a remedy to this climate and it needs to be elevated to the highest priority,” said Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis during a video teleconference.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart outlined some of the things that lawmakers could do.

“Banning chokehold, chokeholds, requiring de-escalation and banning firing into vehicles. Imposing a duty to intervene, imposing a duty of comprehensive reporting,” added Rep. Stewart during the Friday call.

The Democrats hope to convince the majority Republicans in the legislature to take up their legislation before lawmakers likely end their session next week.

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