Two well-known left-wing activists with a history of causing trouble at Republican events are now under arrest on charges of simple assault for throwing a liquid at Tennessee Republican Speaker of the House Glen Casada Thursday.
Officers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested Vanderbilt Divinity School student Justin Jones and his friend Jeneisha Harris.
Thursday afternoon Lieutenant Bill Miller, Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, provided The Tennessee Star with this statement about the arrest of Jones and Harris:
On 2/28/2019 THP was stationed at the State Capitol (600 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Nashville, TN 37243) on the 2nd floor in response to a planned protest. At approximately 0930hrs we began seeing several individuals associated with the protest arriving. Several times, Justin Bautista-Jones attempted to go around rope barriers and enter the House of Representatives chambers.
It became clear that the group was attempting to contact Speaker Glen Casada. The House Sergeant-At-Arms advised the group that the chambers were closed for a press event. At approximately 10:06 a.m. Speaker Casada attempted to leave the chambers and enter an elevator that was being held specifically for members of the General Assembly and leadership.
The group, specifically Justin Jones, attempted to push his way passed uniformed State Troopers and enter the elevator. When he was denied entry, he began yelling at Speaker Casada, calling him a racist.
Mr. Jones was then witnessed throwing a Frothy Monkey cup, with an unknown liquid believed to be coffee, at Speaker Casada, also hitting State Representative Debra Moody in the process. Mr. Jones was placed into custody at the time for Disorderly Conduct and two counts of simple assault. Jeneisha Harris was also arrested by Trooper Tara Lee for Disorderly Conduct for attempting to push passed troopers, yelling and threatening Trp. Lee. Both subjects were then escorted to another room in the State Capitol for processing and transported to a mobile booking facility by Davidson County’s Sheriff’s Office, where they were brought before a magistrate and warrants were issued. (emphasis added)
You can read the statement in the PDF provided to The Star by the Tennessee Highway Patrol here:
On his Twitter page, Casada said “this type of behavior from ‘peaceful protesters’ won’t be tolerated.”
Let me make something clear. This type of behavior from “peaceful protestors” won’t be tolerated. I will not stand for radicals physically & verbally assaulting my members. This behavior has no place or voice here. These folks have been arrested and charged with assault. #TNleg pic.twitter.com/ijQR8IzEiY
— Speaker Glen Casada (@GlenCasada) February 28, 2019
“I will not stand for radicals physically & verbally assaulting my members. This behavior has no place or voice here. These folks have been arrested and charged with assault.”
Jones and Harris, of course, made national headlines last October for allegedly disrupting a Marsha Blackburn rally in Nashville where Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was the keynote speaker. Jones’ preliminary hearing in the Blackburn matter is scheduled for March, said Stephen Hayslip, spokesman for Nashville District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk. He is currently out on bond.
The Star asked Hayslip on Thursday afternoon if Jones’ bond will now be revoked, in light of his subsequent arrest on new charges.
“I’m asking the ADA on the case if we can say anything about that today, or will wait and make our comments at Jones’ court appearance on this latest arrest,” Hayslip told The Star in an emailed statement.
Another angle of the confrontation was captured by Natalie Allison, who tweeted the video showing Jones’ detainment by Troopers on the scene.
Activist @brotherjones_ and another woman just taken into custody by troopers. Justin was approaching elevator Speaker Casada got into but couldn’t see what happened. #tnleg pic.twitter.com/admCUpG8qU
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) February 28, 2019
‘That Can Make You Afraid’
Thursday morning’s alleged incident happened on the second floor of the Tennessee Capitol as Casada and other legislators walked into a crowded elevator.
State Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington, was one of those legislators, and she told The Star Thursday she and Casada got hit. Moody recorded video of the alleged incident with her smart phone and provided a copy to The Star.
On the video, Jones appeared to try to get on the elevator with Casada and the others. A state trooper, however, had to remove Jones by force.
The video then appeared to show Jones saying “I’m sick of you, Casada, you old racist.”
That was when Jones appeared to throw some type of liquid at Casada and the others.
“I was in the very back (of the elevator) behind the speaker and recording and someone threw a large Styrofoam cup full of hot liquid. It hit the speaker and it hit me on my left arm,” Moody told The Star.
“My jacket was soaking wet. But it was up around my shoulder so then you start thinking ‘Gosh, what was that.’ I was hoping that since it was hot that it really was just something to drink — tea or whatever.”
Jones and Harris were one of about 20 people holding up signs of the Ku Klux Klan and demanding to know which chapter of the KKK Casada and his entourage belonged to, Moody said.
“When I leave to come up here, my husband is always telling me to be aware of your surroundings. When things like this happen it really brought it home. The thing that is alarming is that as I was walking out of the chamber one of the young men was calling me by name. That can make you afraid,” Moody said.
“You realize everything about me is out there — my home address. I try to not give in to fear but to realize I need to be more alert and conscious of the ability of people to know a lot more about you like where you live and to be that aggressive and angry and there is no way to reason with them. It was alarming. I am thankful law enforcement was there. And if they had gotten on the elevator with us then I don’t know what might have happened.”
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden put out a press release about the alleged incident later that morning.
“There is no room in our civil discourse for behavior like that demonstrated by protesters this morning at the Tennessee State Capitol. Throwing anything at, or onto, legislators and verbally disturbing committee hearings cannot be tolerated,” Golden said.
“These protesters have shown they are solely interested in causing a scene and disrupting the legislative process. Tennessee Democrats should denounce these protesters and their increasingly shameful behavior. It’s time for them to join Republicans in fighting for peaceful governing at the Capitol.”
State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden discussed the alleged incident on his Twitter page early Thursday afternoon.
“Funny. @tnhousegop puts out video showing attacks on Republican members, suddenly the twitter happy media at #TNleg loses interest in the RT button while their last tweets say “couldn’t see” “not sure,” Holt said.
As The Star reported last week, Jones apparently disrupted the capitol when he tried to approach Casada and even went so far as to claim Casada pushed him away. Casada’s representatives deny Jones’ accusation.
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