by Jeff Woods
The newspaper makes its own demands: "Gov. Haslam owes the protesters an apology, and a commitment to observe their First Amendments. Nothing less than that is acceptable."
The governor's First Amendment affront is shameful. It was executed on the basis of an illegal, post-facto rule, which was concocted in secrecy on Oct. 27 — weeks after the protest had begun — without public notice, legislative review or approval by the state attorney general. Though the legislative plaza has traditionally been open to free and public use without constraint or prior approval, the illegal new rule requires prior approval, user fees, and a million-dollar liability insurance policy. It also limits protests to the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This whole episode smacks of an abuse of state police power akin to those of a petty Balkan dictator. There was no probable cause to arrest peaceful protesters. And there was no precedent for interrupting protesters' traditional and constitutional rights to use the Capitol plaza to make known their grievances about government tax policies.