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Occupy Atlanta, Tea Party Patriots Defeat SB 469

(APN) ATLANTA -- Thursday, March 29, 2012, the last day of the General Assembly, began for Occupy Atlanta, unions, religious leaders, leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, community activists, and the Tea Party at 9:30am with a prayer vigil outside the Capitol steps.  

Activists continued with a rally to speak out against some of the most oppressive bills.   SB 469 was the main target for the day, commonly called the anti-free speech, anti-union bill.  

As previously covered by APN, this legislation contained provisions making it an aggravated misdemeanor to protest on or near private property, punishable by a year in prison and fines of one thousand dollars per day.

"We own the Dome!  We need to send a strong message (to the legislators who vote for SB 469) that groups will come together and we will remember your vote come election time when you are up for re-election.  You are either for upholding the Georgia Constitution and for First Amendment Rights, or you oppose it," Debbie Dooley, a National Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said.  "The Georgia Conservatives in Action were also on all our press releases and oppose SB 469."

The entire crowd chanted, "WE OWN THE DOME!  WE OWN THE DOME!  WE OWN THE DOME!"

"We have over ten thousand names on a petition put out by Martin Luther King, III, opposing SB 469 and the support of Dr. Joseph Lowery, who would be with us today except for health reasons," Charlie Flemming, President of the Atlanta chapter of the American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), shared with the gathering.

"In this bill, Republicans are attempting to cripple the voice of workers.  The payroll deduction portion of this bill is class warfare in its most brutal form and is being perpetrated by the Chamber of Commerce,” Jim Daws, President of Firefighters Union in Atlanta, said, referring to another provision in the bill that would have required union workers to re-authorize their deduction of dues every year.  

“It is a cruel attack when workers, who over the years, have been losing ground on wages, going without health care, and divested of their retirement security.  The Chamber of Commerce is seeking to kick workers while they are down by taking away their last voice that advocates for their interests.  This bill seeks to cripple unions and take advantage of a time in our nation's history when workers are most vulnerable.  So I want to remind Republicans that a lot of unionized workers vote Republican on social issues.  We will remember at election time, if you continue to attack workers for the benefit of the moneyed interests in this state,” Daws said.

"The Interfaith community and the christian churches all around this state that wield tremendous power and respect from the people and our friends in this chamber need to recognize that when you confront the right of the voice of the church to be heard, you are confronting the very foundations of this nation.  It is an affront to what is right and decent," Dr. Johnny B. Hill, Dean of the Baptist School of Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center, said.

After the rally, everyone went inside to lobby legislators to vote against SB 469.  Some of the others bills lobbied against by the coalition were SB 292, requiring a drug test for certain welfare recipients, and HB 347, cutting Georgians’ unemployment insurance.

In the evening everyone settled into the gallery to watch the State Legislature at work.   

Exactly who many legislators are working for has been a recurring question this year, with the Chamber of Commerce having written SB 469 and with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) also writing other repressive and oppressive bills for years such as last year’s HB 87, the anti-immigrant law.

Around 6pm, the House sent SB 469 back to the Rules Committee for the second time in less than a week.  

All of Section 1, which pertained to picketing at private residences, was removed.  

The Minority Leader, State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), questioned leaving section 5 which pertained to conspiracy to commit criminal trespass, if Section 1 was also being removed.  The Section 5 was also removed.  This left the bill strictly an anti-union bill.  

Occupy Atlanta had planned non-violent, civil disobedience (CD) if the bill look like it would pass today.   Now that the bill had changed, they asked the CD volunteers if they were still committed to CD with the free speech part removed from the bill.  Yet, everyone recommitted to support the unions.

Before SB 469 was brought up again in the House, police began to enter the House gallery area.  They completely surrounded the gallery walls with about thirty police officers with guns on their hips and plastic handcuffs in their hands or tied to their belts.  

In the hall another forty or more police officers stood waiting to arrest the thirty people who volunteered to protest the bill and go to jail.

Around 11pm, word circulated that a deal was being made to table the bill and for Occupy to hold off on any CD.  

Occupy re-grouped again and voted to wait and watch as the SB 469 drama continued to change.  During the last hour of the General Assembly, Occupy showed a lot of discipline in their ability to change tactics, with the conflicting information and changing status of SB 469.

At midnight, the end of this year’s legislative session, SB 469 did not come up for a vote in the House and thus it was a dead bill.   

Instead of going to jail, this APN Senior Staff Writer--who had committed to CD--went home to sleep to write another day.

Most agree that credit goes to the the diverse coalition of Occupy, the Tea Party, unions, and religious, civil rights, and community activists for killing the bill, SB 469.  

The Tea Party was effective by lobbying the Republican base.  Occupy was effective for being willing to go to jail to bring national media attention to Georgia's own Wisconsin.  Numerous activists were effective for their persistence in lobbying, speaking out, petitioning, writing letters, making phone calls, and protesting to stop a bill which could have undermined the very foundations of democracy in Georgia.

As APN will report in the near future, other repressive bills did, however, pass in that last tension filled-hour.


Comments (8)

Eric Robertson
Said this on 3-30-2012 At 08:09 pm

Pretty crappy to only name Occupy and the Tea Party defeating 469. I seem to recall a tiny bit of union invovement. sheesh!

Eric Robertson
Said this on 3-30-2012 At 08:20 pm

My previous post was about the headline. But you also pretty much make labor a sidenote throughout your article.

Said this on 3-30-2012 At 10:03 pm

I think the most important part of the story was that the Tea Party and Occupy were UNITED.  The labor movement can take care of itself, but when Occupy and the Tea Party get together on anything it could signal a beginning for the people to force reform in this government, both state and federal, as a unified force.

Granny Tenderstone
Said this on 3-31-2012 At 01:55 am

I agree Jim.  WE AREN'T PARTISAN THAT WAY.  We can find common ground and we don't exclude anybody willing to use logic and defend our liberties.   I do agree also with Eric, that it would be nice to see labor in the headline, but having worked in news for much of my career i know well that headlines have limited space.  this is not something to argue about. It's just a DARN good thing that all those devoted to this cause did what had to be done!!!! the sad part? that so much valuable time and taxpayer revenues are wasted when there is REAL BUSINESS our lawmakers should tend to. Obviously, they are engaged nationwide in efforts to AVOID their duties, and still drawing their paychecks all the while.  IMO, that is stealing and they should be punished for it.


Eric Robertson
Said this on 3-31-2012 At 12:42 pm

It isn't just the headline, the article implies that labor played a minor role.

Eric Robertson
Said this on 3-30-2012 At 11:40 pm

It doesn't matter what anyone thinks is more important. The title is not accurate. Nor is the portrayal as labor as a sidenote/junior partner/ afterthought. We provided the bulk of every major punctuating event throughout this process. We provided untold amounts of staff hours, voluteers, and resources to this effort. LABOR not occupy brought the Tea pARTY into the fight in the first place. The main reason we won was because every organization put a titanic amount of effort into this.

Gloria Tatum
Said this on 3-31-2012 At 05:22 pm

I have written 3 articles on SB 469.  In my first article I quote union people 4 times and Occupy once.  In my second article, I quote union people twice, Tea once and Occupy once.  In my third article, I quote union twice, and Tea once. 

That's a total of 8 quotes from union people, 2 quotes from Occupy and 2 from Tea Party. Now if I have added this up wrong, and missed one person, I apologize in advance.

I do not get paid to write, I do it so people can get information they may not get from other media sources.

Matthew always write the title to every article I write.  i am responsbile for content of article.

I am not perfect and neither is Matthew, but we really try to give a voice to the progressive community.

Eric, I would love to use you as an information source in any future article about labor.

Said this on 7-10-2014 At 04:05 am

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