State senator calls for expulsion of UofM student protesters

Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 12:49pm

A state senator called Thursday for the University of Memphis to expel students who were arrested this week for disrupting a committee meeting about anti-union legislation.

“If I did something like that, I’d be long gone back when I was there at the university,” Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, told reporters just after criticizing the protesters on the Senate floor.

McNally graduated in 1967 from what was then called Memphis State University.

Democrats defended the students and likened them to civil rights protesters of the 1960s. Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, urged the university “to be careful in how they punish those students for their deeds” and recalled the civil rights era demonstrators.

“Sometimes we forget our history,” Harper, who is black, told the Senate. “Those children marched. They were spat upon. They were burned with cigarettes. … Those young people protested before some of you were born so that I could sit at the front of the bus, so that I could go in and have a sandwich at the counter.”

Of this week’s demonstrations, Harper said, “Yes, that was a disruption. But I thought in the scheme of things they were orderly. Let’s be careful how quickly we suggest that our young people be punished.”

University of Memphis officials did not respond to a City Paper request for comment.

State troopers carried seven young activists — including two University of Memphis students — out of the Senate Commerce Committee meeting Tuesday after they locked arms, dropped to the floor and refused orders to leave. The committee delayed action on the bills on their agenda, including one that would bar unions from using dues to pay for political activities.

The students were arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Some of the activists are affiliated with the Progressive Student Alliance, which is sanctioned by the university.

“In the years that I’ve been down here, we’ve never had a situation like that where it actually disrupted a committee meeting,” McNally said. “We had ’em pounding on the Senate door one time during the tax debates. … I don’t mind people protesting. But when they get into interrupting a government meeting, you know that type of thing, that’s a different animal.”

In 2002, horn-honking, rock-throwing protesters converged on the Capitol to stop the legislature from enacting a state income tax. Democrats said those demonstrations were more disruptive.

“Those were patriots, according to the Republicans,” said Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.

“This is still America,” Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, said. “People have a right to protest. We’ve not taken that right away yet. However, I fear sometimes we may be headed down that road. Those people had every right to protest what they did. They locked arms. They weren’t cooperative but they weren’t trying to beat anybody up or anything like that. This country was founded on protest.”

12 Comments on this post:

By: brrrrk on 3/17/11 at 1:43

Lets get this "right".... tea baggers protesting, perfectly acceptable AND they're "patriots": union/labor supporters protesting, a disruption AND they're a bunch of thugs. No hypocrisy there.

By: gdiafante on 3/17/11 at 1:53

How about we "expel" the idiot that wasted taxpayer money while proposing that the state issue its own currency?

Or how about we "expel" the legislators that are bought and paid for by the gun and liquor lobbies, or any lobby for that matter.

I remember the gridlock that occurred every time those anti-income tax nuts swarmed the capital, honking their horns, disrupting traffic...how about we "expel" them from their job?

This moron from Oak Ridge is a tool.

By: lclark1113 on 3/17/11 at 2:18

Now that we have seated a new congress, the waste of time has started. all the new legislation suggested has either been a waste of time or down right illegel. Now they want to punish freadom of speach, I guess it doesn't mater that these students pay for their education,and are adults that have rights like all free americans. They disagree with the ignorant polititians in Nashville and regardless of these rights they must be punished. Shame of these worthless politicians, Remember we are free to speak or mind and will continue to as long as you try to change the laws to suit a few .

By: shinestx on 3/17/11 at 2:51

Naifeh putting words in the Republicans' mouths... yet not one incident of rock-throwing was ever seen/reported. So fast forward to this incident and yet again, Dem-wit union thugs are held to standards of the lowest common denominator. Oh, and no Tea Partier ever invaded a committee meeting. So we have another leftist progressive myth shot down.

If the left insist on calling conservatives "tea baggers", then that must make them the "tea bagged". Hmmmm... I know which one I'd rather be.

By: richgoose on 3/17/11 at 3:55

I think they should be expelled and sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in a maximum security prison.

By: Kosh III on 3/17/11 at 7:11

They should be punished by being forced to listen to Ramsey and McNally give a speech on the importance of Republican fealty to their corporate owners.

By: govskeptic on 3/18/11 at 6:43

You can bet the Nashville Judges will dismiss the cases and
Memphis State will do nothing!

By: TNCitizen on 3/18/11 at 7:05

This does remind me of the civil rights era, particularly the lunch counter sit-ins when Vanderbilt Divinity student James Lawson was expelled for his role in the sit-ins. The ultra right wing, racist publisher of the Nashville Banner goaded his colleagues on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust to expel Lawson. Lawson had not violated any law. He worked behind the scenes to train the students in techniques of non-violent civil disobedience. He was teaching them to withstand the verbal and physical abuse he knew would be heaped on them by racists. He had learned those techniques from Gandhi's organization in India and brought them back to the civil rights movement. For more, read John Egerton's carefully researched and beautifully written account of the civil rights movement, Speak Now Against the Day.

I doubt very much that those who are calling for the two University of Memphis students to be expelled are familiar with the school's Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. It only permits University sanctions after a student has been convicted of an off-campus offense. The call for expulsion is premature. Let the case run its course.

By: pswindle on 3/18/11 at 11:09

McNally, Boy are we in for the run of the crazies in our TN Assembly. We may have to what they are doing in WI and do alittle recalling. TN is not going to stand for this and you know it. Are you saying that we do have the right to protest? I think the Supreme Court just settled that in letting the Church Nuts protest at funerals of our fallen soldiers.

By: zmania on 3/18/11 at 11:59

The state assembly is acting much like the old Communist Party. What they gonna do if they don't get their way? Arrest the families of the protesters and shoot them? These kids were exercising their right to protest. Let them pay the fines and learn from all this.

By: shrum2003 on 3/18/11 at 2:19

james c shrum= if they do it is a violation of the Constitution and the GOP don't give a hoot about the constitution to them peaceful assembly is according to them . these stitudents were within their rights . this senator says back when he was a stident he would have been kick out of college lets tell him that that was then but this is now. it is discrimination now he can't get away with it now . high him now. recall him. kick him out of office . let us remember when election time comes around and send him home to mama.

By: LFCRed on 3/22/11 at 3:48

Another instance of sheer lunacy & hypocrisy brought to you by the tighty whitey righties. Don't these idiots have REAL issues to resolve???

"Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy." Benjamin Franklin