In November, after a lot of hard organizing work, the people of Nashville voted to approve a referendum that would give them a Community Oversight Board to hold Nashville’s police accountable.
It came in the wake of the deaths of 2 unarmed black men – Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick – both killed at the hands of white police officers.
Immediately after the vote, Republican Speaker of the House Glen Casada made it clear one of his first priorities as Speaker would be to pass a bill that would undercut the C.O.B.’s oversight power by taking away its subpoena power – a power Knoxville’s Board has had for years.
Right on schedule, the Bill was introduced this week by Rep. Michale Curcio. The Bill – HB 0658 – would actually remove Subpoena power from all Oversight Boards statewide.
It has the support of Speaker Casada, and now Governor Lee as well:
At the Hermitage Hotel, @GovBillLee hints that he is supportive of House GOP’s bill to strip some power from Tennessee’s police oversight boards. “I don’t think that subpoena power should be given to that oversight board.” pic.twitter.com/Vg2CvCqKZM
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) February 5, 2019
In response to the bill, Community Oversight Now, the group responsible for successfully pushing the ballot initiative and getting it passed, has vowed to push back, calling on all lawmakers statewide to vote NO on HB 0658, and launching a new campaign to reach out to high school and college athletes throughout the country and encourage them not to bring their talents to Tennessee’s flagship universities.
They’re calling it the “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome” Campaign. They say they’re prepared to spend a full year finding athletes where they are and delivering a clear message: “Don’t come here.” They say isn’t safe for athletes and their families, because when they’re not on the field of play they’re in just as much danger as everyone else.
Here’s video from the the Nashville Community Oversight Now press conference about it this week, where they were joined by allies from around the city to speak out in support of the bill.
Jeff Yarbro, the Democrat TN Senate minority leader, had this to say about Curcio’s bill to the Tennessean:
“Over the last several years, the new favorite sport around here is to kick Nashville around, and I think that’s really no way to govern the state.”
Meanwhile Mayor Briley spoke out in support of the Board, but stopped short of saying the bill should be defeated:
“It is my responsibility as Mayor to ensure their will is carried out and that our COB is expeditiously and effectively implemented… this body was approved by the Metro Council after a very competitive process. Each member of the 11-member COB has stepped forward to serve Nashville and help create a safer and more equitable criminal justice system.”
Mayor Briley faces a challenge in the next election from Rep. John Ray Clemmons, who had harsher words for the bill, calling it “state government overreach, plain and simple.”
“Out-of-county lawmakers seem to have no interest in respecting the will of the voters. This new bill is a direct assault on the expressed wishes of Nashville to ensure transparency and accountability for all of our families, and I’ll work to ensure that the community oversight board is protected.”
In the video above, Charlane Oliver of Equity Alliance points out the hypocrisy of “small government” Republicans who don’t like it when the federal government oversteps in the state’s business, yet now themselves have no problem doing it to the people of Nashville:
“Not only was this community organizing at its best, but this was democracy at its best. Don’t let this work go undone by some politicians who don’t even live here. They don’t like it when the federal government pre-empts Tennessee, so they want to do it to Nashville? That’s not right.”
Go here to support Community Oversight Now, and holler at Rep. Curcio, Speaker Casada, and Governor Lee if you think they should keep their hands off the C.O.B. and let the people’s will carry the day.
Thanks for reading! We’re an independent, reader-supported site that depends entirely on you to help us keep holding our public officials accountable and “Yelling the Truth”, so please consider chipping in a $3, $5, or $10 monthly and we’ll keep telling the stories nobody else will: