Protests

Nashville Police Responded Peacefully to Peaceful Protesters, and That Made Some Folks Upset

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Why can't it be Nashville every night?
Credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) / photo on flickr

Hundreds of protesters marched into downtown Nashville in November, upset, as were some people in other cities, that Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for shooting and killing Michael Brown. The protest was peaceful, but did block some streets for a while, including Interstate 24.

The Nashville police and its chief, Steve Anderson, decided not to respond with militarized force and orders to disperse. Police closed the affected streets to keep the protesters safe and offered coffee and hot cocoa to marchers who arrived in front of the downtown police station.

Local African-American church leaders were pleased with how Anderson responded, but not everybody was happy that the Nashville Police didn't show these rabble-rousers who was in charge. As part of his Christmas message to his officers, Anderson shared with them an angry e-mail from a citizen who wanted to know why the police didn't knock some heads to keep the community "safe," as well as his response to the writer. The exchange, as well as Anderson's Christmas letter was picked up by The Tennesseean. Here's the full letter to Anderson. Read in your best "Well, I never!" voice:

I wanted to send you this email to express my frustration and outrage at how the situation of these protesters is being handled in Nashville. The first night protesters marched here after the incidents in Ferguson they never should have been allowed to shut down the interstate. Instead of at least threatening to arrest them, they were served coffee and hot chocolate. I don't feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It sends a message that they can do whatever they want and will be rewarded. Then, this past week, more protesters march around downtown for 3 or more hours and once again, no arrests, and it took THP to keep them from getting on the interstate again. Saturday night, marching and "die ins" at Opry Mills mall. How long are we going to allow these people to disrupt our city?

I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks "Why are the police allowing this?" I wouldn't have a good answer. If any other group of people wanted to march around the streets they would have to get a permit weeks or months in advance, and I know it's not possible to get a permit to obstruct traffic and walk on the interstate.

Please understand I am not trying to disrespect you or your department, I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don't feel that way. Is this going to be allowed to continue until someone gets hurt? Protection of the city should be coming from MNPD, not THP. I also understand that you get direction from the mayor's office, but these actions are putting the department at disharmony from the majority of the citizens. At some point you are going to have to answer this question to yourself—"Am I following or giving orders that help or hurt the community?" In closing, if these recent actions have been due to pressure from the mayor's office, please reach out to the people of Nashville, there are many who will gladly contact the mayor's office as well.

Anderson's response is much too long to print in its entirety. But here's how Anderson responds to the writer's demand for a zero tolerance policy toward the citizenry:

Although this is unlikely, given your zero tolerance stance, suppose that, by accident or perhaps inattention, you found yourself going 40 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone and that you were stopped by a police officer. Then, after making assurances that licenses were in order and that there were no outstanding warrants, the officer asked you not to speed again and did not issue a citation, but merely sent you on your way.

As you have suggested, a question may come to you from the back seat, "How can I respect the police if they will not enforce the law?" In the event this does occur, here are some facts that might help you answer that question.

In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion.

This is an explanation you might give your son. Take into account, however, that the innocence of children can produce the most profound and probing questions. They often see the world in a very clear and precise manner, their eyes unclouded by the biases life gives us. This could produce the next question. "If you believe that the police should enforce the law at all times, why didn't you insist that the officer write you a ticket?"

I don't have a suggestion as to how that should be answered.

Read the rest of the letter here, as well as the chief's Christmas letter to his officers.

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  1. I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures

    Good little sheep you got yourself there. *barf*

    1. “Why are the police allowing this?”

      “Because, boy, there’s this little thing call the right to peacably assemble. They could ask them not to block the interstate, since there are laws against pedestrian traffic of any sort there, but there’s no cause to disrupt the protest overall.”

      1. This is exactly what I was thinking the entire time I read this article. No, they technically don’t have the right to block traffic, but since they were being peaceful, it sounds like the police let it slide rather than making massive amounts of arrests which could have lead to a much more dangerous situation, like full on riots.

    2. Yeah, let us just teach them to respect the thugs. That will work.

  2. Good for the Nashville cops, and nice response to the letter by El Capitan,

    AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED!

    1. Yeah, we need a lot more like him.

      1. I’ve had the opportunity to observe and speak with Chief Anderson on several occasions in the past year. He is a humble and unassuming man and a thoughtful and considerate leader and excellent role model for his commanders and officers. Nashville is fortunate to have him as chief of police. His management of this situation exemplifies his good judgement and genuine concern for all the citizens in Nashville. Now if a few more cities could follow this example…..

        1. Don’t know anything about the man, but as I was reading the story it made me think of Andy Griffith.

  3. my friend’s half-sister makes $83 /hr on the internet . She has been out of work for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $14066 just working on the internet for a few hours. go to this site…………
    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  4. So….any chance Chicago could lure this chief away?

    1. WTF? This chief missed a billing opportunity!

  5. I will raise my kids to respect the police by learning to never interact with them unless forced to do do, and, in that situation, to speak only when accompanied by competent representation.

    1. I’m going to make sure my kid understands the difference between power and authority.
      For example the police have the power to arrest you for failing to produce identification on demand; but they only have the authority to do so if you’re driving, or if they have reason to suspect you have committed a crime or have warrants for your arrest.
      Since nothing will happen to a cop who illegally arrests you on false charges when you fail to obey an unlawful order, it might as well be authority. But it’s not.

      Unchecked power has the illusion of authority, but they aren’t the same thing.

      1. *applause*

  6. I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.

    * * *

    Please understand I am not trying to disrespect you or your department, I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.

    There was a time when I would have said that America was the wrong country for that person. Now, alas, I think it’s become the right country.

  7. “these people” “my son”

    Fuck off

  8. This guy isn’t entirely wrong though. Why are we allowing people to march down interstates? I completely support a group’s right to peacefully protest, but they can’t just block off city streets much less highways.

    1. They can’t? If I understand the article correctly, that’s just what they did. And as far as I know, as of December 29th, 2014, Nashville hasn’t devolved into a Mad Max-ian wasteland where street children huddle behind the ruined shells of former buildings, hoping to avoid attracting the attention of the wandering cannibal rape gangs.

      1. “Nashville hasn’t devolved into a Mad Max-ian wasteland where street children huddle behind the ruined shells of former buildings, hoping to avoid attracting the attention of the wandering cannibal rape gangs.”

        No, no! That is Memphis.

        *ducks*

        1. As an ex-Memphian I would love to give you a patented narrow gaze. As a realist, though, all I can offer is a shamed face and a shrugging of the shoulders.

          It also irks me that I have to say something nice about Nashville. Fuck I hate that city. As the capitol city they always manage to gets lots of tax dollars (especially from Memphis since our delegation spent more time fighting each other than in organizing to get our loot back).

          At least our cannibal gangs know how to BBQ. A nice dry rub for that thigh we got from one of those gas station hold outs and not some wet sloppy shit like you’d get from one of those Kansas City faggots.

          1. Those Kansas City “faggots” make great BBQ. It’s a question of what you want. I like Memphis style, I like Texas style, I like KC style, I can even be persuaded to like NC style from time to time.

            And, if you are like me, stuck in the People’s Republic of California, you would kill for any decent BBQ of any style.

            1. If you continue to languish in the PROC it is your own fault. You can find employment elsewhere and run like hell.

              *ducks and runs*

        2. People in Philly complain about the blocked highways etc… every time the President visits.

          1. At least they have their cheesesteaks though.

      2. You’re correct; they can, and they did. However, they shouldn’t. Why should I be blocked from driving down the interstate because some people want to protest? This happened here in Minneapolis on I35 recently too. The police basically did the same thing, and people trying to go home after work were stuck.

        Maybe when I decide to walk somewhere, I should be allowed to just walk in a car lane in the middle of a major city street. Why not? Rules be damned.

        1. Because sometimes it’s better to treat people with a little respect and let them vent in a non violent manner? Sending SWAT teams to bash heads in for blocking a street seems a little excessive. And it also tends to escalate the non violent protests into looting and burning.

          1. This is a straw man, and you know it. Furthermore, do you think that there wouldn’t have been looting and burning if the cops weren’t out in Ferguson?

            1. How would you have removed people from the road? Ask nicely?

              It seems likely that trying to forcibly remove the protestors from the highway would likely have shut it down for even longer. When dealing with large numbers of people, you have to take such things into consideration. If you have enough people who are determined to close down the road, there is nothing that you can do without resorting to lots of violence.

        2. BC maybe you need to suffer a bit once in a while so that you have a right to protest yourself when some issue you care about comes up?

          I’d say that more people on 35W have been inconvenienced more by politicians flying into MSP and taking a secret service blockaded route out to Edina, Eden Prairie or Minnetonka than have ever been troubled by protesters.

          In 2008 I got fucked multiple, multiple times because of politicians fucking up 35W/Crosstown traffic and am still bitter about it.

        3. Why should I be blocked from driving down the interstate because some people want to protest?

          or because the interstate needs repair.

          or because a lot of people use it every day at the same time.

          or because there was an accident.

          There’s a lot of reasons why you might not be able to drive the speed you want at the time you want down the interstate. If the protest violated your rights, then so does rush hour.

          1. Or because weather. But then, this is Nashville. I guess snow isn’t as big a deal for them.

          2. That’s a false argument. I might drop my wallet down a sewer — that doesn’t mean police shouldn’t pursue muggers.

        4. Maybe when I decide to walk somewhere, I should be allowed to just walk in a car lane in the middle of a major city street. Why not? Rules be damned.

          Actually, yes.

          Prior to the mass introduction of the automobile, the idea that one citizen could have a greater right to use a road than another would have been seen as absurd.

          Basically, thinking like yours in practice means that the right to assembly no longer exists – because every public way in America has been given over to the automobile.

          “Well, we chose to structure modern life in such a way that allowing people to retain the right to assemble is inconvenient!” Too bad.

        5. Why should I be blocked from driving down the interstate because some people want to protest?

          Your question answers itself.

        6. One word, V-plow.

      3. Obviously they “can” in that they can do it and get away with it. That doesn’t mean it’s right or should be lawful. Highways were built for car traffic, not public assembly, and people using them for marches are trespassing. The police may refrain from arresting them for practical reasons, but that doesn’t change the legality or ethics.

    2. Same reason they don’t arrest people at pot smoke ins. Escalation of force should be reserved for when it’s absutely needed and when it doesn’t do more harm than good.

    3. I agree. The chief talked about how his men might let off a speeder with a warning (for going 40 in a 30), but if I actually blocked a public roadway – especially a major highway – and refused to stop unless arrested, then do you think the cops would just cite me and tell me to move on?

      I can’t help but think of the disrespect the cops showed to drivers who were actually trying to use the roads for their intended purpose. And of course, the cops are saying that people who actually get parade permits in advance are saps.

      Sometimes roads need to be blocked off to traffic in order to allow parades, including political protests, but I would say that the public convenience requires that the would-be marchers make advance arrangements so as to minimize the inconvenience to motorists, allow the motorists to be diverted properly, etc.

      Of course, I’m assuming that all parade permit applications are handled in a politically neutral manner.

      I wonder what the cops would have done if a Klan rally spilled over into the highway? Coffee and donuts for everyone?

      1. The discretion being exercised was the judgement that moving in with heavy police presence to prevent protesters from entering the interstate would result in violent conflict. They had to judge whether this inevitable violence was worth the tradeoff of allowing the potentially dangerous disruption of the interstate. Not an easy choice, truth be told.

        To paraphrase the Mississippi supreme court: “just because the police have been wrong a lot does not mean, without something more, that they are wrong here.”

        1. All right, fair enough, but they should have made some effort to identify violators to be picked up later. Did they do this?

          1. Would that have helped? “Excuse me Mr. Maksed Protester. Before you step onto the highway I need your photo ID so I can hunt you down and harass you later.”

          2. They did. The cups they served the coffee and hot chocolate in have been sent off for DNA analysis and fingerprinting.

        2. The discretion being exercised was the judgement that moving in with heavy police presence to prevent protesters from entering the interstate would result in violent conflict.

          I think the question to ask is, though: if the highway had been revenue-generating private property, how would the owner have dealt with this situation.

          So far, we have alternative (1) clear the highway with violence in an attempt to generate revenue again asap, (2) let the protesters block the highway for a while and eat the losses.

          I suspect a private owner would have come up with a better alternative. The reason we have the choice between violence and stopped traffic is because government simply don’t give a f*ck about the stopped traffic (they just argue we need more taxes for road expansion).

      2. And of course, the cops are saying that people who actually get parade permits in advance are saps.

        A law requiring you to get a permit is a law restricting the right to assemble.

        Full stop.

        The “time, place, manner” argument is just like “strict scrutiny” and every other bullshit excuse invented completely out of whole cloth to pretend that the 1st Amendment doesn’t say what it plainly and straightforwardly says.

        I would say that the public convenience requires that the would-be marchers make advance arrangements so as to minimize the inconvenience to motorists, allow the motorists to be diverted properly, etc.

        That is because you think that there is an enumerated right to a predictable driving time from point A to point B, when there is not. You would get there eventually. Maybe you’d advance at a walking pace, but you’d get there eventually.

        There is, on the other hand, an enumerated right for the people to assemble.

        I can’t help but think of the disrespect the cops showed to drivers who were actually trying to use the roads for their intended purpose.

        You can still use the road for its intended purpose. It will just take you longer than you planned. I don’t remember promising to refrain from exercising my rights whenever it might lengthen your commute time.

        1. Yeah, but you see, you’re looking at this thru the interested eyes of an activist, favoring activism over the comfort & convenience of ordinary folks doing ordinary stuff. Of course it’s the same when some bigwig gets a motorcade or the like with little or no advance notice too, and that’s thru the interested eyes of politicians.

          The only excuse for roads as a public good is transport’n. If you’re going to take property or prevent some land from having full fee simple ownership rights, the only good excuse is that the public be allowed to use it for the only things they have a need for long, narrow stretches of land for, i.e. passing thru ASAP.

        2. Can you walk on the highway as an individual? No, that’s already unlawful. Therefore, your right to assemble there is irrelevant because you can’t exercise it for reasons unrelated to assembly.

          The right of assembly only restricts government from making laws interfering with your ability to assemble in places you can already be legally present; it isn’t a magic key that lets you go places you are prohibited to go as an individual.

      3. It is largely a practical matter. If you were standing in the middle of the road slowing traffic, they can take you away and the problem is solved. If you have a few hundred people who won’t comply with verbal orders to clear the road, then you have to let them be or resort to violence. And even then, you probably end up shutting down the road for even longer. The police don’t have the magical power to make people disappear who are breaking the law.

        And that doesn’t even get to the right to assemble issue.

        1. Couldn’t you just push them, the same way you’d push or tow a car? No hitting, just push nice.

          1. As people don’t have wheels for the most part, pushing would have to get violent if people didn’t allow themselves to be pushed.

            1. You don’t have to box, just wrestle. No hitting, just pushing & pulling.

    4. The cop answered him. Do you really want zero tolerance, and if you do, why are you speeding without turning yourself in?

      Please write 1500 characters explaining the difference.

    5. This guy isn’t entirely wrong though. Why are we allowing people to march down interstates? I completely support a group’s right to peacefully protest, but they can’t just block off city streets much less highways.

      Even if you believe (as the letter writer seems to) that cops should act ‘forcefully’ to curb wrongful acts, the police acted correctly in this case, calculating that a few hours of disruption were better than days and weeks of rioting.

    6. Interstates get shutdown all the time for parades, races, etc. Once you establish a precedent that highways are available to be closed temporarily for public events, the city doesn’t have a basis for denying the protestors similar access just because their message is unpopular.

      1. Interstates get shutdown all the time for parades, races, etc.

        Where do you live? I have never seen an Interstate highway closed for any reason other than a traffic collision or HAZMAT issue. In fact, I’ve never even seen a state highway closed for a parade or race, either. I have seen local roads closed for such purposes, but that’s a different animal.

        1. Cross country interstates? No. But the parts of interstates running through cities? Yeah.

          I-676 through Philadelphia (where I live near), for example, frequently shut down for events.

          1. Fair enough.

        2. And I’ve definitely seen state highways and federal non-Interstate highways shut down for races and parades.

          1. They start the NYC Marathon on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge! Doesn’t make it right, just sayin’.

            1. I think I am more bothered by roads getting shut down for things like that than I would be by a protest shutting down a road.

              1. Other things being equal, so would I, but at least parades, races, etc. are scheduled, so you can plan around them.

  9. …they never should have been allowed…

    Freedom means asking permission and obeying orders.

    1. Including orders on the when, where, who, and how of protesting that you have to ask permission and obey orders.

      “Free Speech Zones” FTW!

      1. Everyone who believes in free speech zones may remain within the designated area. Anyone who believes in free speeech are free to make their point anywhere that isn’t causing damage.

  10. In this instance, the police chief and his department appear to be completely professional and competent.

    The writer of the e-mail, however:

    …express my frustration and outrage…

    …never should have been allowed…

    I don’t feel that is…

    How long are we going to allow…

    …I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.

    Obviously spends more time feeling than thinking.

    The problem here is not (thankfully) the police.

  11. Respect is an earned commodity. The chief’s actions appear worthy of that. The protestors have a right to do what they did and the PD has an obligation to protect the rights of the city at large. Seems that both ends were served here. Maybe I-24 was not the best choice of route but, come on; if that’s what we’re quibbling about……

    1. The protestors have a right to do what they did and the PD has an obligation to protect the rights of the city at large.

      I think that’s a bit of an overstatement. Specifically, I’m hard pressed to think of an argument that says protesters have a right to block interstates. To get that, you have to elevate their rights above those of everyone else.

      That said, I think the way the police chief handled it was appropriate. No real public purpose would have been served by escalating tensions.

      1. I didn’t say they had a right to block interstates, only that they have a right to peaceably assemble. The city can control the route and, again, if we are down to arguing over the route itself, the chief looks pretty good.

        1. I agree on both counts.

      2. To get that, you have to elevate their rights above those of everyone else.

        Not necessarily. Why can’t you and the protestors share what is, after all, a limited resource that has alternatives?

        Kinda like what actually happened. On this particular day, the interstate was used as a protest venue for a couple hours, and for vehicular traffic for, oh, 22 hours.

        Whose rights were violated by the protestors? Seriously, within reasonable limits (and since we aren’t talking about the state violating your rights, I think we can be reasonable), tell me how any of these protestors violated the rights of travelers?

        The world if full of things and places that no two people can do or occupy at the same time, even though they both have the right to. Does the person who gets in front of you in the exit lane, causing you to miss a light, violate your rights?

        1. I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification. The entire point was to render the interstate unusable for a period of time, to deny everyone else access to it. You’re assuming that the protesters have a right to that specific publicly-provided venue, that venue designated for a distinctly different purpose. To take your example of the person getting in front of me in the exit lane, the proper parallel would be if that person stopped in the middle of the lane for the express purpose of making me miss the light. I think you can make a non-trivial case that they would have violated my rights under the circumstances.

          1. You’re assuming that the protesters have a right to that specific publicly-provided venue, that venue designated for a distinctly different purpose.

            So, we’re going to add to our enforcement of “collective” rights, a presumption that the State has the authority to dictate the when, where, who, and how of protests?

            Out in the real world, our rights often have to jostle for room. That jostling is not necessarily a violation of your rights.

            I am far from convinced that this protest violated the rights of any given citizen in a way that should not fall well within our zone of tolerance for citizens who are, lets not forget, exercising their own rights.

            I repeat: what right was violated of any individual traveler on that day? Spell it out for me.

            And if you think making you miss a light is a non-trivial violation of your rights, I have no clue what you would consider a trivial violation of your rights that should be tolerated rather than jackbooted.

            1. There is no such thing as a “right” to block an interstate.

              1. That’s what makes no sense in RC Dean’s argument. He’s implying a right to exclusive use of public property for a period of time.

                1. He’s implying a right to exclusive use of public property for a period of time.

                  You’re kidding, right?

                  That’s the right you’re demanding.

                  “I want to use this highway to drive on, and those protestors are using it to walk on. Drive those protestors off this highway, officers, so that I may enjoy exclusive use of it!”

                  That’s what you’re demanding.

                  When you both non-exclusively use the same public resource, you end up going slower than you otherwise would have. So what? The Constitution promises the right to assemble, and doesn’t promise the right to travel at any particular speed. As long as you got to drive on the highway at whatever speed was commensurate with everyone else’s use, no right of yours has been violated.

                  1. The highway is not a “non-exclusive” resource.

                    It was built for the explicit purpose of driving. And the drivers paid their gas tax money to build it for that purpose.

                    You haave the non-exclusive right to use it for that purpose.

                    You do not have any right to use it for anything else you just happen to want to use it for.

                    1. The Constitution says you can’t do that.

                      Here’s the problem with your point of view: by area, I would estimate that 99% of the non-national-park public spaces in the US are now “set aside for the purpose of” the automobile. That means that – if you’re right – the right to assemble was cancelled when the automobile was invented. How is that possible?

                      If you wanted roads governed like private property, you shouldn’t have gone with a system of public roads. Public roads subjects those spaces to constitutional protection.

                    2. “The Constitution says you can’t do that.”

                      No the Constitution doesn’t say that.

                      That is merely your interpretation of it.

                      There has never been any such as an unqualified “right” to occupy any particular piece of real estate in any way that you want to any time that you want to just because it was paid for with taxpayer dollars.

                      Try waltzing into a courtromm in the middle of a ongoing trial and start tapdancing in front of the judge’s podium and see if the bailiffs think you have a “right” to do that.

                    3. By the way, it’s comical that one of you is angry because you claim no one should be able to have exclusive use of a public space, and the other one is angry because you claim that road drivers have exclusive use of a certain type of public space.

                      Nice.

                    4. Drivers do have the exclusive right to the use the highway becuase it was drivers who paid for it with their gas tax user fee.

                    5. The highway is not a “non-exclusive” resource.

                      It was built for the explicit purpose of driving. And the drivers paid their gas tax money to build it for that purpose.

                      And don’t forget the space itself. If it weren’t for the needs of conveyance, we could have all our bldgs. in cities abut each other. We don’t do that, because then we couldn’t move between them. But that is a sacrifice of space that could otherwise be used in such a way. It may in some cases be no more than an easement, and in other cases be an interstate hwy.

                  2. No Fluffy. I’m not kidding. The protesters were most certainly not looking for the right to use the highway to walk on. They would be welcome to do so, like anyone else, at their own risk. The entire point was to shut the interstate down to drivers.

              2. We all have a right to assemble, and we all have a right to use the public way.

                I can definitely see your argument if individual drivers had been targeted or surrounded and not allowed to leave. That would be unlawful restraint.

                But if a bunch of people decide to walk on the interstate carrying signs, and that ends up slowing your progress the way any other slow-moving traffic would slow it? Nope. They’re just exercising a right, and you’re not having a right violated.

                1. Except they weren’t moving. They were stationary. As such, they weren’t using the public way. They were preventing others from doing so.

                  And you don’t see the silliness of saying that if they did it to one person, it would be a violation of rights, but since they did it to a bunch of people, it’s not?

                  Do I have the right to pitch a tent and set up housekeeping in the middle of I-95? If I don’t, why do the protesters?

              3. There is no such thing as a “right” to use an interstate.

                1. But, that absence of a right would equally apply to anyone, whether a driver or a protester.

            2. So, let me ask you a question – Do counter-protesters have the “right” to block the protesters from being able to get off the highway (i.e. to force them to remain on the interstate)? By the reasoning you’ve advanced, there’s really no principled position that you can offer that says they can’t.

              1. Do counter-protesters have the “right” to block the protesters from being able to get off the highway (i.e. to force them to remain on the interstate)?

                How are they doing it?

                I don’t think the distinction between unlawful restraint and incidental delay that I drew above is that esoteric at all.

                If the counter-protestors got in front of the protestors and walked really slowly while having their counter-protest – no, I really don’t see the problem with that.

                If the counter-protestors physically restrained the protestors in some way, I would consider that unlawful restraint.

                1. I don’t think the distinction between unlawful restraint and incidental delay that I drew above is that esoteric at all.

                  I would also point out that the police are fairly used to making this exact distinction, since it comes into play at every labor picket line.

                  1. I would also point out that the police are fairly used to making this exact distinction, since it comes into play at every labor picket line.

                    Yeah, well, that’s a problem too. At least it’s a problem to everyone who’s intimidated into taking the picket line as the blockage of an entrance or exit. It comes down to people getting their noses as close as they can to each other so that either can blame the other for the collision if one advances another inch.

                2. What if they blockaded every exit to the interstate?

            3. we’re going to add to our enforcement of “collective” rights, a presumption that the State has the authority to dictate the when, where, who, and how of protests?

              Not the when, who, & how of protests, but the when, who, & how of streets & roads.

            4. what right was violated of any individual traveler on that day?

              The right to travel. That wasn’t hard, was it?

              There are some libertarians who try to boil down all the principles of liberty to self-ownership, but that doesn’t work. The examples I give where that fails all involve freedom of movement. I usually give the example of someone blocking your driveway or locking the exit to a room you’re in. You have all the accoutrements of ownership of yourself & any possessions you happen to have on you, but you’re lacking the freedom to move yourself & stuff out of there, which seems to most people to be a very basic liberty.

              1. You have all the accoutrements of ownership of yourself & any possessions you happen to have on you, but you’re lacking the freedom to move yourself & stuff out of there, which seems to most people to be a very basic liberty.

                Right. (And this response applies to all similar objections above.)

                And if I want to walk on the highway while carrying a sign, that would seem to be BOTH the “very basic liberty” of travel AND the right to assembly. At once.

                If the protestors deliberately blocked the interstate while not moving, I could see that as unlawful restraint.

                My arguments here have been in support of marching on the interstate. That’s what I thought this incident was about.

                If I had decided in 18 fucking 05 to march down the Boston Post Road with three friends carrying signs, it would have been in fucking disputable that I was engaging in the right of assembly. Every last assembly of the Colonial era took place on what amounted to a road, or a public square (which were conjunction points of one or more roads). But because everyone proceeded on those roads on foot or by horse power, it would never have occurred to anyone that my right to carry signs down the road was in conflict with anyone else’s right to use the road.

                This is incredibly basic Founding stuff. That apparently (according to Gilbert Martin) was eliminated from the Constitution not by amendment but by Henry Fucking Ford.

              2. So, he should have gone into full SWAT mode? Heavy machine guns and fire bombs like the MOVE incident in Philly that killed eleven people and burned down sixty houses?

      3. the PD has an obligation to protect the rights of the city at large.

        Oh, we’re back to justifying law enforcement activity based on “collective” rights?

        Do go on. Comrade.

        1. This thread is getting so long I’m just parking this comment here.

          For all the assholes who AGREED that driving “is a privilege, not a right” by getting a drivers license in the first place – you can go fuck yourself with the whining about “I wanna drive here NOW and screw the protesters.”

          The Constitution guarantees the right to peaceably protest. The government GRANTS A PRIVILEGE to drive, which means they can suspend it any time they want. How totalitarian of you to just decide what the laws and rights are at your convenience.

          RC and Fluffy have this correct.

  12. While I think the police handled it fine, it’s not for the reason the given by the police chief. They handled it fine because their handling of it prevented an escalation of the problem. The protesters had a beef (rightly or wrongly) with the police, not the law, so police action was only going to escalate the problem and probably instigate violence.

    Analogy to the traffic violation is way off base, since presumably the driver who is stopped but not ticketed has been reminded to stop breaking the law and agrees to drive more carefully going forward, rather than telling the cop that he’ll drive however he damn well pleases. The protesters are saying they will break this particular law as they damn well please, and the cops are, if anything, implying it’s ok (for now). The analogy would only hold if the police politely reminded the protesters that they were breaking the law and instructed them to stop, and they in turn complied and stopped blocking traffic, etc. But since their reason for breaking the law was to express their displeasure with perceived overagression by police, I don’t think agressive action by the police was going to help anything.

    1. The correct analogy for how the police handled this situation would be that they don’t pull people over for speeding when traffic is heavy and everyone is going the same speed, evenif it’s above the speed limit. The riskd involved in pulling into traffic to pull someone over far outway the benefit especially when keeping up with the “pack” is the safer choice.

      1. However, I used to see that done a lot in the 1980s & 1990s around here. They’d corral & pull over a whole line of cars to ticket them.

  13. Please understand I am not trying to disrespect you or your department, I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.

    Writing an email ain’t gonna get your pain heard. This guy should get together some like-minded people and march on City Hall.

    1. Or down the local interstate and hold up traffic.

    2. Pish. You want to get heard?

      Write a check. Or drop off a sack of cash.

  14. OK Reason, what the hell is going on?

    I have tried twice now to post something in this thread and when I hit submit, I am automatically logged out and what I submitted is not posted.

    1. THOU HAST ANGERED THE SQUIRRELZ, SOMEHOW!!!!

  15. I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.

    Since you are raising him to “respect police officers and other authority figures”, shouldn’t your response be “I don’t know, but I don’t have to know, son. We have a duty to follow whatever they demand of us without question” like it was every other time?

  16. For the third attempt at posting this,

    I live in the Nashville Metro area and the police chief’s analogy to speeding is patently absurd.

    Speeding is not remotely comparable to completely shutting down an interstate.

    What occurred is an example of affirmative action in police enforcement.

    Because of what the protesters were protesting and who they were, they were given far more leeway by the police than any other group protesting something else would have been given.

    The police could have stopped those protesters from getting on the interstate but chose not to do so. If some other group – such as a tea party group for example, who were protesting Obamacare or Obama’s executive order on immigration had chosen to do the same thing the police absolutely would not have given them the same leeway to block the interstate.

    1. The police could have stopped those protesters from getting on the interstate but chose not to do so.

      Could they? Or could they without using an unacceptable amount of violence? I really don’t know, but if you have enough people, it is pretty hard to stop them doing whatever they want to do without bashing a lot of heads in.

      I don’t think they were given special treatment because of what they did. It looks to me like the police did the practical and responsible thing to keep the protests peaceful and to avoid causing bigger problems.

      1. if you have enough people, it is pretty hard to stop them doing whatever they want to do without bashing a lot of heads in.

        And yet, there’s a difference between wrestling & boxing. Pushing/pulling vs. hitting.

    2. Because of what the protesters were protesting and who they were, they were given far more leeway by the police than any other group protesting something else would have been given.
      This is true. Compare with the rx by NYC of the bicycle activists?people who were actually using the road as a road, and whose only offense seems to have been using it visibly together. They were charged criminally with blocking traffic, while blocking an intersection as a motorist would get you a mere ticket.

      1. It is also true in Nashville itself.

        Compare and contrast the way the Nashville police treated the protesters who shut down the interstate with this:

        http://www.jrn.com/newschannel…..73371.html

        “CREATED Dec 8, 2014

        NASHVILLE, Tenn. ? Authorities have issued a warning to demonstrators to obey the law during President Barack Obama’s Nashville visit.

        Chief Steve Anderson with the Metro Nashville Police Department said they support the right to peacefully protest, but people will not be allowed to block streets, major highways, or the interstate.

        “Nashville is a place where people are free and encouraged to express their thoughts, their first amendment rights, but within reason ? and without interfering with the rights of other persons,” said Anderson.

        Officials said those who violate city ordinances could be arrested, and could be held civilly or criminally responsible for any harm to others.”

  17. Does anyone think the interstate would have been reopened any quicker if the cops went in there cracking skulls?

    1. The police had been escorting the protesters all along their route.

      They could have prevented the protesters from getting onto the interstate to begin with.

      1. Way to not answer the question that was asked. If smashing in heads of peaceful protesters to keep them from blocking a road for a couple of hours is okay with you then say so. I think the road would have been blocked even longer and would have escalated the violence to other parts of the city.

        1. If the protesters were truly “peacefull” they would not resist being arrested for knowingly breaking the law to begin with, now would they?

          If you claim head smashing would ensue, then you are admitting that the protesters are not in fact, “peaceful”.

          1. You can peacefully resist arrest. And there are only so many people the police can bodily haul away. If you have a big enough crowd, the police will either have to start busting heads or let people do what they will as long as they are peaceful about it.

          2. Head smashing is an appropriate response to unconstitutional arrests.

        2. Can you push or tow a car without smashing it? So, you can do the same with people.

      2. Yeah, the idea that a violent clash with protestors on an on ramp wouldn’t have closed the interstate strikes me as misguided.

        1. And who says that the police could not have stopped them before they got the on ramp or that the interstate would have to be shut down at all?

          1. I’ve seen that done many times without violence. The cops just block the way.

  18. To elaborate on my earlier point, and Gilbert Martin’s:

    Will the cops turn a blind eye to *all* future protests which illegally block the streets? Or (the more likely scenario) will they turn a blind eye only if they agree with the protests?

    The next time they break up, say, a White Power rally for blocking the streets, the organizers could sue for discrimination – “they broke up *our* rally but not theirs!”

    1. To avoid First Amendment political-discrimination suits, they need politically neutral rules for when demonstrators get to use the public roadways.

      The usual source of such rules is a parade ordinance, and I imagine Nashville has one.

      If the ordinance is too strict, relax it, but don’t selectively enforce it – that opens the door for preferential treatment for those the cops sympathize with.

      1. The parade ordinance is at least potentially a venue for sorting out the jostling of rights inherent in public roadways. A good way, if done right, for minimizing the friction that comes with people exercising rights which can’t all be exercised simultaneously at the same time and place.

        The next question is, what to do when someone doesn’t use this venue. Wade in cracking skulls? Or, let it play out but keep an eye on it? Looks to me like the latter was the way to go here.

        1. It’s funny how the non violent response seems to have better outcomes than sending cops with nightsticks in to bash people heads. It’s also funny watching some who argue against the police state now arguing for “rule of law”

          1. I don’t know if they faced the choice between doing nothing and wading in with the nightsticks. I’d have to do more research, but probably won’t.

        2. I defer to their local knowledge over whether “wading in” would have made the situation worse. I’m glad they at least thought about the problems. Trying to identify some protestors for later arrest, and investigating the organizers to see if they planned the illegal activity in advance, would be measures short of the nothing vs. crack heads binary.

          I suspect, as SimonJester suggests below, that the reason the cops were more lenient on these protesters has to do with the protesters’ local popularity with many citizens. As a corollary to this, I think the cops would have *much* more likely to crack heads, and *much* more likely to fetch coffee for the demonstrators, if the cause they were marching for had minimal local support – let’s say banning country music.

          1. much *less* likely to fetch coffee etc.

          2. Arresting people later would be the worst combination of actions. You get to make some people miserable by blocking their passage, and later make these other people miserable by legal action. These protests are so few & far between that deterrence mean nothing. Act on the spot to prevent the problem, or do nothing. No need to crack skulls, just direct traffic.

          3. Come to think of it, the cops’ collaborating with the protestors to shut down the thru highway because it makes the locals happy is akin to setting up speed traps to catch passers-thru to fund the locality.

        3. There are three major interstates that converge in Nashville.

          There is an enormous amount of pass through commercial traffic (semi trucks) on those roads every day,

          I have lived in the area all my life and as far as I know there has never been any parade permit issued for demonstrating on the interstate.

      2. GKC, I’m loathe to disagree or question you; please forgive an perceived disrespect.

        I am not sure that you are correct in your analysis, here. The cops do not need to turn a blind eye to ALL future protests. Rather, to stay consistent, they simply need to suggest that their choice was for the same purpose, that is, keeping the peace.

        MNPD didn’t stop the protest for two reasons. First, they wanted to save face and earn the good graces of their community, particularly the press and black leadership. They chose the option that would get them the least bad press and would only piss off old conservatives. Second, they chose the option that will cause the least violence. Responding with riot gear and rubber bullets would have escalated the issue. They chose to let it slide so as not to make it worse. Your KKK analogy doesn’t fly here for obvious reasons: White Power groups do not have the media, community, or political support that these protests hold.

        Unfortunately, this does cause the MNPD to have captiulated to a “Nice city you’ve got here. T’would be a shame if something happened to it…” However, this IS, more than likely, what they did.

        Also, I doubt it had anything to do with sympathy. MNPD probably loves their tacticool gear and no-knock entries. They acted to save face and build back their reputation.

        1. Also, I want to make it clear, I am not saying that what the police did was right or wrong (I am on the fence). I like reducing violence and not making unnecessary arrests. I do NOT like the police allowing citzens to break the law for fear of bad press.

        2. “Your KKK analogy doesn’t fly here for obvious reasons: White Power groups do not have the media, community, or political support that these protests hold.”

          If the KKK could prove this was actually the cops’ motive, they could win a 1st Amendment suit. Varying enforcement methods based on the popularity of the demonstrators would get the cops a loss in court.

          So I think this underlines the point I was trying to make.

          1. Oh, certainly. I am not saying that the police were in the right. In fact, I am of the opinion that they could be sued.

            My point was that they COULD argue (but won’t, because of Anderson’s christmas letter and comments) that they only didn’t bring force to bear because it would have caused more violence, more destruction, more danger. Keeping the peace was their primary motive. However, like I said, they would then be admiting to using their enforcement discression to pay off a threat. If the KKK wanted to sue, and they used this motive, they would have to show that the circumstances would be the same and there was as much public risk.

  19. Sounds like the writer cares more about her precious interstate than, oh, human rights.

    “I demand not to be inconvenienced!”

    1. I guarantee you, every person who uses that road on a regular basis has alternate routes scoped out for when its closed for accidents or repair, when rush hour is just jammed up, etc.

      This is a murky, murky area. IOW, a good one for not siccing armed agents of the state on people.

      1. I drive to Nashville enough that *I* have alternate routes available.

        Because Nashville is fucked up enough at rush hour. Especially with the current construction on I-65.

    2. There is no such thing as a “human right” to block an interstate.

      1. There is no such thing as a “human right” to drive on an interstate either.

      2. I didn’t say there was.

        I was referring to the human rights of the victims of police brutality – she doesn’t give a shit about those when her commute is being fucked with. Which is understandable given human nature, but worth mocking considering she went through so much effort to demonstrate it to the world.

      3. Perhaps not. But there is a Constitutional right to do so.

        1. No there isn’t.

  20. The problem is interstate highways going thru cities instead of merely adjacent to them, but that is hard to fix without bashing in Ike’s skull.

    1. The strong towns blog has regularly pointed out that part of the problem in Ferguson was lack of public space for protesters to gather. Hence the protesting in the roads.

    2. I thought it was Ike who did not want that to happen.

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  23. I think what people get upset at is that for things like this protest, the city and/or police are NOT enforcing things AT ALL and certainly NOT EQUALLY as the writer of the letter pointed out. For PROTESTS, specifically, WHY are these people NOT being required to get appropriate permits, venues, etc. when this is enforced on every other group who might want to demonstrate somewhere? While I appreciate the police side and their ability to be lenient and adjust for situations and circumstances to provide more gray areas rather than enforce with an iron fist all the time, it does seem unfair that protesters can infringe on other people’s rights and not adhere to current policies in the city (laws on the books now) and get away with a mild form of anarchy–to what end?

    1. I think history has proven that if protestors don’t inconvenience the common people to some extent, they will be entirely ignored.

      1. Like the spammers here?

    2. If me and my three buddies protested outside the DMV peacefully and possibly added 20 minutes to the waiting line for everyone else, will the police give us hot cocoa and make friendly chat?

      I don’t mind a level of appeasement from the police, especially in the face of public discontent, but in places like LA something like this is asking for trouble.

      I was stuck on the road once for about 40 minutes because the cop blocked almost every entrance and exit to somewhere (freeway ramp, business plazas and malls) after a bank robbery. No words could describe the amount of rage I felt. But at least that was public safety.

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  26. So Dallas and Nashville are America’s two good PDs.

  27. I believe this is the same police chief who, when the secret service was trying to gain access to a man’s home and called for back up and then asked his officers to pretend to have a warrant and wave a blank piece of paper in front of the man to gain entry, filed a complaint with the secret service and then sent all the documents of their response, saying mind your own business, to Congress. This is a good public servant.

  28. If there’s no need to escalate the situation, don’t. Simple.

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  30. Nice to have a little light in the darkness. Good for the Nashville police and Chief Anderson.

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  35. WTF, is our spam-zapper on the fritz? TEN instances as I write here.

    Anyway, good on Nashville’s police chief for actually respecting the First Amendment. Especially the “freedom of speech” and “peaceably assemble” parts.

  36. I’m going to peacefully assemble a bunch of people on the public sidewalk in front of your driveway preventing you from leaving. How would you like that? Don’t you dare infringe on my rights! Anyone on the interstate should have been asked nicely to leave and if they did not make efforts to get their asses someplace designed for pedestrians they should have been peacefully arrested. Courtesy to fellow citizens. Police should be forced to adhere to the principle and citizens should always try to practice it.

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  38. Is this form of protest- the trying to walk on the highway- new? I don’t recall that from previous protests. Police are in a bad position when bad and unjust laws need to be enforced and they are the ones tasked with doing it. That said, police should arrest people who are initiating a use of force upon others. I believe closing down a highway does that and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s laws in place that support my assumption. So I’m all for arrests to prevent people from walking on or closing the highway.

  39. I personally think that if they walk into the interstate it is their fault if they get run over.

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