Citizens rally against bill to punish civil disobedience

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Citizens rally against bill to punish civil disobedience

The Southerner

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Representatives from unions, Occupy Atlanta and the Georgia Tea Party gathered outside the Capitol on March 17 to protest SB 469. If passed, the bill would have designated protesting on private property an aggravated misdemeanor.

By Carson Shadwell
“This is what democracy looks like!” chanted the crowd of thousands outside the state Capitol early on March 17. Police cars circled the area as union workers, members of Occupy Atlanta and other outraged citizens spilled into the street to rally against Senate Bill 469.

The bill, which was defeated in the state House of Representatives on March 29 after being passed by the state Senate, would have made picketing on private property an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by fines and jail time. The legislation caught the attention of civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Senate Democratic leader Steve Henson and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, as well as countless individual citizens.

Robby Evans, union electrician representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, believes the bill was unconstitutional and designed to harm unions.

“We want to send a message to lawmakers that we Georgians know our rights,” Evans said.  “Bill SB 469 will deny us our First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.”

International Brotherhood of Teamsters member Terry Day agreed with Evans.

“This fight is for everybody, no matter [their] race, political stance or religion,” Day said. “This affects everyone.”

Protesters marched around the Capitol well into the afternoon, careful to avoid stepping into the street and obstructing traffic.

Henson attended the Saturday rally to support the protesters.

“I’m here to support the workers that are being attacked by the [Georgia] General Assembly,” Henson said. “I hope to communicate to the people that some of us care about creating jobs and fair wages, not just protecting the rich.”

Pine Lake City Council member  George Chidi also expressed concerns regarding the bill.

“[SB 469] is the most obvious breach of civil liberties I’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

Chidi pledged to commit an act of symbolic civil disobedience if the bill passed.

“I take being arrested very seriously,” Chidi  said. “I would only do it if I truly believed a law to be immoral and unconstitutional.”

The sponsors of the bill, Republicans Don Balfour, Bill Hamrick, Bill Cowsert and Ross Tolleson, did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting a comment.

Paideia junior Lulu Lacy and senior Chris Brock both attended the rally because of concerns raised by the proposed bill.

“I don’t want to grow up in a place where I don’t have a voice,” Lacy said.

Brock added, “I’m a privileged white male from a private school. I don’t have to worry about this stuff, but if we don’t have a voice, we have nothing left.”

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