People rally outside State Capitol after Gov. Lee signs bill increasing punishments for certain protests

Community Unrest

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Saturday night hundreds marched towards the Tennessee State Capitol raising their voices against inequality and police brutality. But this time around they added a new focus to their protest, chanting that “Governor Lee has got to go.”

Some demonstrators outraged over Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s decision to sign off on House Bill 8005, which essentially makes overnight protests on state grounds a federal offense.

The decision comes after protestors occupied the plaza in front of the state capitol building for months. It passed the Tennessee General Assembly last week, and Governor Lee signed it into law Thursday without a public announcement.

“It was kind of backhanded that he didn’t announce that he would sign the bill, it just suddenly went into effect,” protestor Jake Keisler said.

“It’s not right as a Governor. What kind of Governor would do that,” said protestor Brittany Brown.

According to the new law, those who camp illegally on state property between 10:00pm and 7:00am will face a “class E” felony, which is punishable by up to six years in prison.

In Tennessee convicted felons also lose their right to vote.

“I do think that its unfair because it’s essentially saying we don’t want your on our property, we don’t care about your problems,” protestor Morgan Defelice said.

“Our first amendment rights are being taken away by Governor Lee,” Keisler said.

This weekend’s protestors told News 2 the new law infringes on their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, which is exactly why they showed back up to the state house Saturday night.

“He’s (Gov. Lee) telling us that it’s a federal crime to speak up. To do what every great American has done, and that’s speak up for what they believe in and fight for the things that they know are wrong. So for a conservative to say that you can’t do that, you can’t fight for what you know is right. is mind-blowing,” protestor Stephanie Wild said.

The bill also increased fines and jail time for those who assault first responders, block highway access to emergency vehicles, and engage in aggravated rioting.

To read a full summary of HB 8005, click here.

(Teens For Equality organized Saturday’s protest)

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of community unrest across Middle Tennessee.

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