published Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Cook: This is what democracy looks like

With nearly 100 members of the Occupy Chattanooga movement before her, Councilwoman Sally Robinson opened Tuesday night's City Council meeting with a prayer: "Our creator, we give thanks tonight for the privilege of living in a democracy."

Yes, what a privilege. What a messy, chaotic, beautiful, rebellious, grand privilege democracy can be.

You should have been there to see it Tuesday night.

Shortly after 6 p.m., City Council room: "You have a choice," Patricia Bazemore told the nine council members.

Bazemore was one of the Occupy protesters who filled the council chambers. Her message was clear: Give us, she asked, a public place to build our movement; local ordinances, set up to prohibit anyone using public parks after 10:30 p.m., can be changed.

She's right. The City Council in Los Angeles passed a resolution (11-0) expressing support for the Occupy protesters camping out on the City Hall lawn. A Nashville judge recently ordered police to stop arresting curfew-violating protesters.

Our own City Council could have agreed Tuesday night to a compromise: a two-week suspension of the ordinance. The use of the downtown library. Or the City Hall lawn.

But before giving the first of three protesters (they were allowed 11 minutes total) the chance to speak, the council made its stance clear. The ordinance was staying.

"Please don't ask your City Council to violate an ordinance," said Robinson.

"I'm very sympathetic with you," Councilman Jack Benson told the crowd. "But you're not going to succeed by breaking any laws."

Two hours later, in Miller Park: Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd gets a hug or two and plenty of handshakes. All from the Occupy protesters.

You've seen footage from other cities. Tension between police and protesters grows. Smoke from tear gas spreads. The plastic-tie handcuffs appear. Horses clomp in the distance. Billy clubs loom.

But Dodd, the epitome of a gentleman Tuesday evening, spent two hours -- along with Councilman Andraé McGary -- with the protesters, negotiating, joking, pleading.

"We are on your side. We don't want to arrest you," Dodd told the crowd. "We will help you in any way we can between 8 a.m. and 10:30 at night."

Already, Dodd told me, he had asked Larry Zehnder, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department, to waive the $500 deposit any large group needs to gather in a public park. And on the other occasion when Occupy gathered without any deposit or permit, Dodd didn't step in.

Late Tuesday night, the protesters and Dodd reached a compromise: Without tents or obstructing traffic, they would begin a 24-hour vigil and occupy the sidewalk outside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Or so I thought, as I drove home to go to bed.

10:45 p.m.: The phone call went straight to voice mail.

"Hey David," the message said. "This is Landon. Me and one other person are going to do civil disobedience tonight and defy the law."

Landon Howard is a social worker, leader within the activist community in Chattanooga, former student and a friend. He loves Dr. Martin Luther King, especially his belief that "there comes a time when silence is betrayal."

In a society where more Americans -- when asked by researchers -- can name the five members of "The Simpsons" cartoon family more easily than the five freedoms in the First Amendment, Howard represents active, direct, engaged democracy.

So Tuesday night, believing that sometimes conscience and conviction trump everything -- even ordinances and police chiefs -- Howard and Heidi Davis walked to the green grass lawn outside City Hall and, underneath the American flag flying on the pole, unrolled their sleeping bags and climbed in.

They were willing to get arrested for what they thought was right.

For the end of families having to sleep in their car. For veterans paralyzed and foreclosed. For groceries purchased with more than minimum wage. For the end of politics married to money and the beginning of politics in the hands of the people.

And though Landon and Heidi didn't get arrested Tuesday night, they are what democracy looks like.


David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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riverman said...

I would think an "alleged" history teacher would know the difference in a ,"democracy," and a ,"representative republic," which our form of government is. If we lived in a democracy every citizen would vote on how to handle the protestors rather than electing our city council people as we do. I think whenever a protestor ,"camps," out overnight they should offer their warm bed at home to one of David's homeless friends. That would actually mean they were doing something positive.

November 3, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Thank you riverman. I thought everyone had forgotten about the founder's distrust of a pure democracy.

November 3, 2011 at 8:25 a.m.
Walden said...

David, my friend, "democracy" happens at the ballot box. The OWSers may be practicing certain constitutional rights by demonstrating, but they are not practicing "democracy."

November 3, 2011 at 9:29 a.m.
Rezsia said...

Personal rights and freedoms are an American citizen's right and duty to protect for this generation and those to come. Our forefathers fought for the right to assemble and free speech. It seems to me that these two are honoring those who sacrificed to give their children and all American's these two important freedoms. I find nothing wrong with them standing up for principles that made this country a true inspiration to others. As for them staying the night, it's all about the principle of the matter. The city government has taken away a private citizen's right to peacefully assemble by passing an ordinance.

November 3, 2011 at 10:54 a.m.
chet123 said...

bigridge and riverman....both of you have missed the run-way....thanks to the two of you and many more that think like you American have become an OLIGARCHY form of government....America is becoming like SAUDI ARABIA with a few fat cats owning everything....harem of wealth and still trying to take and greedy pigs...and wimps like bigridge and riverman(whose not in the 1% but dont try to tell those little wimpy men that..they think they are ha ha ha) will defend that group with their last figure it out ha ha ha

November 3, 2011 at 2:57 p.m.
chet123 said... say democracy start at the ballot box...really it should....but look what going on in america....where do you live,,in a hole....the majority of vote dont guarantee a victory... populate votes dont count on state and national elections...its rigged....also theres a study that says 94% of candidate with the most money is that for democracy?? must watch FOX TV...WAKE UP MAN AND SEE WHATS GOING ON!

November 3, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.
riverman said...

I am a long way from the 1% but I will surely take them over these losers and parasites demonstrating all over the country. I wish all the 1%ers would just say to heck with it, shut down all their enterprises and then see what the Occutards think about that.

November 3, 2011 at 3:50 p.m.
Joyanna said...

"riverman," I hereby challenge you to defend your statement. What makes Occupiers "losers and parasites"? Everybody I talked to in the movement either has a job, has TWO jobs, or is actively seeking a job. On top of that, they are investing their limited free time to make this a better nation for your lazy behind. What are YOU doing to create a more just society? Not studying history, I can tell, or you would understand that all of the privileges you enjoy were won by workers standing up for basic human dignity. If you enjoy being on your knees thanking your corporate masters for the crumbs that fall from their table, more power to you. But before you use ugly words to describe those with more dignity than you, you had better have some evidence.

November 3, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
lanaland said...

While other cities have been fighting their police forces to Occupy, a variety of Chattanooga officers made a point to tell us Tuesday that they were with us, saying, "we're the 99 percent," letting us know they were at the Occupation "to protect us." They shook our hands, accepted hugs, and were the heroes of the night, along with the Occupiers, who staked out the front of the City Council for everyone else after the council said "no" to giving us a permit. That support from the police for the Occupiers meant so much more than the glaring lack of support from our council. The council consistently represents the monied interests that are carving up this town, not the people who live, work and raise families here. Thus we have legislation without representation. And I only hope one day that people realize that's treachery that our elected officials work for our predators, and make laws and policies supporting them. I hope we can recall the corrupt council members like we're getting to do with our mayor, thanks to today's appeals court ruling. And Judge Jeff Hollingsworth needs to be held accountable for judging the mayor recall case he had no authority over, and attempting to invalidate our charter. We need new leaders, and it seems to me they're Occupying the front of the city council building, not the district seats or mayor's office!

November 3, 2011 at 6:31 p.m.
chet123 said...

riverman, so thats what you call your sons and daughters...losers and parsites ha ha ha these are the people who fight and defend this you really think that 1% will lay down their lives for your sorrow butt....i have heard about your kind Riverman..i've seen a few like you in my life....maybe because your life is worthless...maybe it make you feel important or maybe you are just inferior thinking.....If this country dont do 180degree turn about....your children will be speaking chinese buddy....

November 3, 2011 at 6:50 p.m.
chet123 said...

Riverman you say you are a long way from 1%....that means you are a defender of the rich and greedy..whats in it for you.what do that say about you are a weasel of a your wife and children know you are that inferior.....buddy any man could take your woman....Your children,if you have sure they would be proud to know their father is such a weasel.Riverman, Be a man not a weasel....would hate to be in a fox hole with you would take the side of the enemy and call your fellow-american soldier loser and parisites ha ha ha

November 3, 2011 at 6:59 p.m.
acerigger said...

C-mon Chet, don't sugar-coat it,tell 'em how you REALLY feel! lol lol lol

November 3, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Turn the channel so you can get the real picture. Ignorance is going to put you on the wrong side of history.

I dont think these veterans would like being called squatters.

November 4, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
acerigger said...

Some folks only see and hear what they WANT to see and hear.

November 4, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
chet123 said...

Jon Ross...who do you listen to....FOX NEWS..ha ha ha thats the only news network with no credibility and everybody around the whole world know it but you JON...the joke on you jon have been bamboozle ha ha ha

November 4, 2011 at 12:41 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...


Don't be too hard on him. Fox is being accused of using subliminal mind control. I wont quote sites here. As far as I know, it hasn't been proven in a court of law, although youtube has lots of instances where people have pulled it out of the video.

All of the networks will do it if they can get away with it. The best solution is to turn it off, and go get your news in lots of places.

November 4, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Have you guys seen this? Maybe 100,000 people marching in Oakland today. Check this out!

November 4, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
riverman said...

Hey Chet, when you and your buddies in the hood start worrying more about education and less about the size of your private parts then maybe you can get off the Democrat Plantation.

November 4, 2011 at 4:55 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Stay tuned for more thought provoking debate!

November 6, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
mymy said...

Is Cook still employed as a history teacher? If so, just more proof of what is wrong in the educational system.

November 8, 2011 at 8:01 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Riverman, surely you know that when we women hear someone saying what you said to Chet, we know it is a small reflection on your own private parts.

November 8, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
jwalidea said...

The United States is not and has never been (nor SHOULD it be) a democracy. Why do so many people not understand this? Constitutional republic ya'll.

November 8, 2011 at 7:56 p.m.
chet123 said...

Riverman....the joke on you again you think i live in the hood(not that i would be ashame)that shows how stupid you are riverman...i want you to think the way you do ha ha ha it gives me such an superior advantage over you.... ha ha ha.. because you dont have a clue where i'm at....but i will say this much...i know who i am....but you dont know who you are ha ha ha i'm willing to bet you are one or two generation from Appalacian dirt are not of royal descent buddy....

November 9, 2011 at 5:49 p.m.
chet123 said...

JUST ONE WOMAN....let RIVERMAN have his fun.....i dont mind it....because i know and he knows that he is insecure..Just filled with hate..he remind me of one of my passed girl-friend perverted Brother.....RIVERMAN...I'm closer to you than you think GOMER! ha ha ha....You cant articulate your issue...theres not facts...You cant defend you points...You've been dumb down...This is what too much Rush Limbaugh and Fox News do the pea size brain in a basketball size canial HA HA HA HA

November 9, 2011 at 5:57 p.m.
chet123 said...

RIVERMAN....I'M Closer than you think HA HA HA!!!

November 9, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.

Chet123, Ugh. Learn a little english before you start trying to use it.

November 10, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
timbo said...

Where does the TimesFree Press find these imbeciles like Cook? Surely they don't pay him. Contrast this scruffy bunch of Luke-warm socialists who wouldn't' know the constitution if it bit them to the Tea Party. The only thing they have accomplished is crapping on the court house lawn. Liberals, is this the best you got? Pathetic.

November 12, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
Rtazmann said...


February 26, 2012 at 8:38 p.m.
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