A new Tennessee law holds local government officials legally liable if they prohibit law enforcement or fire and rescue services from doing their jobs, enforcing Tennessee’s laws, or protecting citizens during public demonstrations.
Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly passed the bill into law in August with Gov. Bill Lee’s signature. They said in an emailed press release that Tennessee needs the law, especially after violence erupted during protests in downtown Nashville in May.
The new law did not generate a lot of publicity last summer, said State Rep. Brandon Ogles, (R-Franklin), who sponsored the bill in the legislature. He told The Tennessee Star Monday that the law is America’s first mob violence governmental accountability bill.
“[Imagine if] the mayor of Nashville were to order Metro Police to not enforce the laws and to move away from the state capitol or to move away from Broadway or any area within their jurisdiction and ordered those first responders to stand down,” Ogles said.
“They would, in essence, give up their civil liability immunity during that demonstration and they would take on civil liability.”
The law makes local officials civilly liable for property damages, personal injuries or even death, Ogles said.
The law does not apply to local law enforcement or fire and rescue services personnel and the decisions they make, according to the emailed press release.
Members of Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s office did not return The Star’s request for comment Monday.
As The Star reported in May, several thousand protestors descended upon Nashville’s Legislative Plaza on behalf of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis while in police custody. Many protestors carried signs demanding that the government either defund or abolish the police. The crowd, composed of whites and blacks, chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” many times over.
Later in the day, and after that day’s rally, protestors resorted to violence — by vandalizing the Metro Courthouse and, later, parts of lower Broadway. Nashville law enforcement officials arrested a total of 28 people that night. Metro Nashville Police determined that protestors damaged 30 businesses and buildings.
Also, as reported that day, countless people took to Cooper’s Facebook page and scolded the mayor for allying himself with anti-police protestors earlier in the day. They also rebuked Cooper for not taking an aggressive enough stance against protestors later in the day when protestors resorted to violence.
Former Nashville mayoral candidate Carol Swain said she warned Cooper to prepare for possible violence following that day’s protests.
Cooper responded with a polite thank you — and, apparently, little else, Swain said at the time.
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