The ACLU of Tennessee and Shuttleworth, PLLC sent a letter to Governor Lee today calling on the state to respect Tennesseans’ right to peacefully assemble and protest and to end seizure of protesters’ property without cause or due process.
The letter was sent on behalf of several protesters who have been peacefully participating in the “People’s Plaza” protests, which began on June 12, 2020. Members of the movement call for, among other things, the defunding of police, a meeting with Governor Lee, and the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the state capitol.
Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) officers have repeatedly arrested and charged protesters with criminal trespass and other petty offenses. Video footage shows THP officers have also routinely taken protesters’ personal belongings and supplies, including food, water and medicine, without providing a warrant or notice for the seizure of property, or demonstrating that the property is tied to any alleged violation of law.
“In this national moment of reckoning over police violence and racial justice, the right to protest is more critical than ever,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU of Tennessee legal director. “Targeting certain groups of peaceful protesters for arrest and seizing their property without cause or due process sends a dangerous message that in Tennessee, people will be retaliated against for exercising their rights. We urge the governor to take swift action to protect free speech.”
The letter calls for the state to stop making unnecessary arrests of demonstrators, to immediately return all seized items, and to discontinue seizure of demonstrators’ essential supplies and personal belongings. The letter also calls for Governor Lee to issue an order suspending the seizure of private property without due process.
In addition to Castelli, the protesters are represented by ACLU-TN staff attorney Stella Yarbrough and ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Robert Briley of Shuttleworth, PLLC.
A copy of the letter sent today can be found at: https://www.aclu-tn.org/
This statement can be found online at: https://www.aclu-tn.org/aclu-