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VOL. 35 | NO. 28 | Friday, July 15, 2011




Protesters who disrupted Senate hearing acquitted

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Seven protesters who disrupted a state Senate committee hearing in March have been acquitted of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges.

"We argued they were exercising their First Amendment rights, and we think the First Amendment is really important," said defense attorney Jay Steed, who represented the group in Davidson County General Sessions Court with partner Jonathan Farmer.

Judge Casey Moreland found the group not guilty on Friday.

The seven men and women who were arrested on March 15 were mostly students from the University of Memphis who were at the Capitol to denounce a bill to strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights. They were among a group that stood up during a Senate hearing to chant about "union busting" by the Legislature.

Most demonstrators left the hearing room after a half-hour, but a small group tried to lock arms to keep from being removed. Troopers pulled the holdouts out of the room one by one, while lawmakers, lobbyists and other observers looked on.

A bill replacing teachers' collective bargaining rights with a concept called collaborative conferencing was later passed and signed into law.

The measure would replace union contracts with binding memorandums of understanding on issues such as salaries, grievances, benefits and working conditions. But it would shield other areas such as differentiated pay or evaluations from discussions.

Supporters of the bill said it was a good compromise, but detractors noted that the legislation would allow school districts to dictate terms to teachers if no agreement is struck.

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