Protests at the Tennessee State Capitol escalated on Thursday as two people were arrested with one charged for throwing an “unknown liquid” at Speaker Glen Casada.
Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers arrested two protesters near the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the state capitol after one man, Justin Bautista-Jones, allegedly attempted to push passed security and then flung what appeared to be coffee at the Republican House Speaker as he entered an elevator, WKRN reported.
Troopers were reportedly stationed at the capitol for the planned protest over removing a controversial Confederate general’s statue from the building, and were forced to intercept Bautista-Jones when he appeared to be trying to get past rope barriers to enter the state house chamber to speak with Casada.
The Vanderbilt Divinity School student then allegedly made an attempt to get to the speaker as he exited the chamber to get on an elevator, yelling at him when he was barred by troopers from doing the same.
According to WKRN:
When he was denied entry, Bautista-Jones allegedly began yelling at Speaker Casada, calling him a racist, and then threw a coffee cup “with an unknown liquid believed to be coffee” at Speaker Casada.
State Representative Debra Moody was also hit by the liquid, officials say. Bautista-Jones was arrested by Trooper Linda Lee for disorderly conduct and two counts of simple assault.
According to THP, another protester that was allegedly trying to push past troopers named started yelling and threatening Trooper Lee while Bautista-Jones was being placed under arrest. The woman, Jeneisha Harris, was also arrested for disorderly conduct.
Casada, whose Twitter account notes he is an “unapologetic Republican,” called out the incident in a tweet on Thursday accompanied by video.
“Let me make something clear. This type of behavior from ‘peaceful protestors’ won’t be tolerated,” he wrote, condemning the “radicals” for “physically & verbally assaulting” lawmakers.
Let me make something clear. This type of behavior from “peaceful protestors” won’t be tolerated. I will not stand for radicals physically & verbally assaulting my members. This behavior has no place or voice here. These folks have been arrested and charged with assault. #TNleg pic.twitter.com/ijQR8IzEiY
— Speaker Glen Casada (@GlenCasada) February 28, 2019
Republican and Democratic lawmakers had already had some disagreements before the incident occurred Thursday as they discussed how protesters were handled at a committee hearing on Tuesday which happened to be chaired by Rep. David Byrd who was re-elected in November after being accused of sexual assault in the 1980’s.
“I just made it clear that citizens are no longer going to be dragged out of committees as they were earlier this week and it’s not going to be tolerated,” Nashville Democrat Bo Mitchell said, according to WKRN.
But East Tennessee Republican Matthew Hill countered that safety is a major concern for all when protests get out of hand.
“Once they started to disrupt the process, that’s when it becomes a real challenge because there are safety concerns not just for legislators, but staff and other members of the public,” Hill said.
“Protest is good, but you must do it in an orderly manner,” Casada told reporters Thursday. “Your First Amendment rights end at your nose.”
Social media users wondered how long it would take before Democrats denounce protesters who claim they are “exercising their rights” by physically attacking people.
Guessing not any time soon.
VIDEO- The “peaceful protestors” dems @MikeStewartLive @marymancini @VoteBo @tndp @JRClemmons @TNDemocrats say “deserve to be heard” & are “exercising their rights” physically assaulting Spkr @GlenCasada & @RepDebraMoody. Still waiting on dems to denounce the attacks. #TNleg pic.twitter.com/Cenu0IGRx2
— TN House Republicans (@tnhousegop) February 28, 2019
Nothing “peaceful” about this protest. Not sure what @marymancini talking about. Frankly ThePeople about sick of all the disruptions, harassment & threats against @GlenCasada, etc, while he tries to go about his workday.
— RNR Tennessee (@RNRTennessee) February 28, 2019
Of course it’s never called violence when it’s self-righteous social justice.
— John X. Grey (@johnxgrey) March 1, 2019
Very sick of this behavior.
— NoLongerUndecided (@NoUndecided) March 1, 2019
Peaceful protesting is one thing. This is not acceptable.
— Lee Mills (@Millsdo) February 28, 2019