published Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Hamilton County Commission acts on Occupy Chattanooga

Two Occupy protesters who did not want to be photographed grab some belongings before leaving the campsite along the sidewalk outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday. Members of the Hamilton County Commission took the first step in their Wednesday meeting to remove Occupy protesters from camping on the grounds of the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga.
Two Occupy protesters who did not want to be photographed grab some belongings before leaving the campsite along the sidewalk outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday. Members of the Hamilton County Commission took the first step in their Wednesday meeting to remove Occupy protesters from camping on the grounds of the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Hamilton County Board of Commissioners
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners

IN OTHER BUSINESS

  • Commissioners voted to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance, which would make it available only by prescription.
  • They approved an extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk, which will extend from Ross's Landing to St. Elmo.
  • They agreed to a $181,000 state pass-through grant for a rail spur improvement to Designed Alloy Products Inc. in Alton Park.

The Hamilton County Commission took its first official action Wednesday regarding the Occupy Chattanooga protesters who've been camped out on the courthouse lawn since last month.

Commissioners passed a resolution expressing disapproval of those camping on county property and appointed Chairman Larry Henry to take enforcement action against them.

"We're just putting it in place as kind of a safeguard," Henry said after the meeting. "We're going to be monitoring real close the next few days."

The resolution, which passed 8-1, states that "in recent days individuals have pitched tents and otherwise set up structures/camps on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn in an effort to have an extended stay on said property in violation of certain City of Chattanooga ordinances, Hamilton County Zoning Regulations, and the laws of the State of Tennessee."

Henry said he's been concerned about activities such as open burning, sanitation, damage to grass by tents and the possibility that no one is actually occupying the tents at night.

Baris Gursakal, a 19-year-old University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student, was on the lawn during the commission meeting. Afterward, he estimated he's spent about 40 days at the site.

He said nothing the group is doing is illegal.

"If they want to kick us out of here, they need to come show us the legal grounds to take that action," he said. "They don't come talk to us. There is nothing that says we can't burn wood down here as long as it's for heating and cooking purposes."

He said the group purposely chooses untreated wood.

Wednesday's resolution wasn't on the agenda or mentioned in last week's agenda session, but was passed around by County Attorney Rheubin Taylor during the meeting.

The lone "no" vote, Commissioner Joe Graham, said he thought the best designee would be the buildings committee chair, but that he supported the measure overall.

Commissioner Fred Skillern said he's probably had more complaints about Occupy than about any other single thing in his time on the commission.

"Protestors, nor demonstrators, or visitors should be allowed to do anything on Hamilton County property that we don't allow our employees to do," he said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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acerigger said...

Occupy sez,"yes****pleze open up that can of 1st Amendment Rights worms! how much is the city of Chattanooga willing to pay to make these hippies go away?

December 22, 2011 at 1:42 a.m.
cannonball said...

The city is too busy with the mayor recall efforts to get involved with occupiers. The county is too busy telling property owners what they can and cannot do with it. The cops are too busy busting prostitutes. Maybe we can hire some gang members to help take a few of these tents down.

December 22, 2011 at 7:54 a.m.
givemeabreak said...

I wonder how many of the Occupy protesters are receiving unemployment compensation? If any of them are, I would think the 40 days they've spent camping out would've been better spent looking for a job.

December 22, 2011 at 8:03 a.m.
Gator said...

It's about time. I've been embarrassed that the people we elected to represent us hasn't had the guts to tell these people to go camp in a campground like the rest of us do when we want to camp. As far as Freedom of Speech goes, that gives you the right to express your thoughts and opinions, not trample on or occupy public property. I have paid up to $25 a night to camp - what are these people paying?

December 22, 2011 at 8:19 a.m.
purplelaw said...

Freedom of speech Yes! Freedom to take over government owned property and kill the grass - not really a First Amendment right. The right to assemble has long been held to limitations - the long term use of government property would be a limitation.

Purple Law Firm is a general practice law firm in Chattanooga

December 22, 2011 at 8:28 a.m.
mrredskin said...

where do these clowns use the restroom? public restrooms? i pay property taxes, so why don't these dolts have to pay to pitch their tent on someone elses property?

December 22, 2011 at 8:34 a.m.
dadofboys said...

FYI, in 1984 the Supreme Court ruled that camping in federal parks was not protected speech! The case involved camping in support of homelessness. The mere act of camping alone is NOT speech. I believe that our elected officials have been spineless in not evicting the occupiers. They have set no end to their protest and there is no reasonable hope that their "issues"will be resolved and that they will return home after a successful campaign. At this point they are just a bunch of folks who have a free camp site. Thank you

December 22, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Givemeabreak says hey would b better off looking for a ob, I say we are better off having them protest for our being screwed by big banks and government, including our count and city, that don't care about its citizens enough to protect our interests.

December 22, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.
lookinfour said...

Unbelievable that a resolution had to be passed to enforce laws and ordinances already in place. Deadbeats need to get off the grass. Both kinds.

December 22, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.
Volstfp said...

Reality to Occupy, pack your stuff before you get thrown off and go find jobs like everybody else you supposedly "represent"! The courthouse grounds don't belong to you exclusively, and the majority of taxpayers are saying enough. Your antics are a slap in the face to people that get up each day and WORK for a living. I encourage Commissioner Henry to give them the boot before 2012.

December 22, 2011 at 10 a.m.

@ Volstfp- What about the slap in the face the 1% have been giving us for years? I suppose your one of the idiots that pretend there not getting bent over and stuffed as long as you don't have to be reminded of it. Way to take what the 1% allows you to have, Nimwad!

December 22, 2011 at 10:10 a.m.
umadbro said...

These threads always crack me up!... all these people with their clever "get a job" comments! Oh and ... "go camp in a campground" you totally nailed it! GO OCCUPIERS! YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST! Ohh wait... I didn't know you were killing grass... never mind that last part. HOW DARE YOU KILL GRASS! Oh and I so wanna know where you poop cause like that's totally what this is all about! I'm not going to try and debate you ppl.... I just wanted to say OCCUPY! GO! GO! GO! GO! I LOVE YOU GUYS! 99%!!!!!!! (also just fyi... I work full time, am a full time single father, and own my home!)

December 22, 2011 at 12:09 p.m.
givemeabreak said...

To inquiringmind - I don't disagree with you about the big banks and big Federal government that insists on getting bigger, but the Occupy groups end up costing you and I money, not the big banks or Federal government. Do they really think they're accomplishing something by camping in a city park? The bank execs are laughing. The added police coverage, cleanup, attorney fees, court costs, etc. to baby sit them is coming out of the taxes you and I pay. Occupy needs to find something constructive to do instead of complaining and eating up taxpayer dollars. Vote for people who will make changes, become vocal shareholders about executive compensation, camp out in front of the banks board of directors houses, and so forth.

December 22, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.
tipper said...

Apparently Skillern must not be counting the complaints he has received pointing out his racism and bigotry. As for OWS, don't expect the county commissioners to understand your protests and what's going on around them in the country. It's way above their pay grade.

December 22, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.
joneses said...

IllusionofDemocracy

All that will happen if you finally get your way and confiscate all the money of the current 1% is you will be creating different people that will make up the 1% and you will still be camping out in the cold for nothing. All over this world forever there have been those that have more "stuff" than others and you or your fellow occupiers will never be able to change that. So please go home so we can restore our court house lawn back to it's beauty for all to enjoy. Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.
joneses said...

IllusionofDemocracy

One more thing. The USA is not a democracy and the founding fathers never intended the country to be a democracy. We are a Republic. You might want a democracy as a democracy is all about mob rule and it appears you and your fellow occupiers are just that. Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2011 at 3:31 p.m.
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