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Georgia’s Protest of SB 469 Brings Together Unions, Occupiers, Tea Partiers, LGBT Groups

Georgia Senate Bill 469, which looks to place extreme limits on picketing, brought together an unlikely coalition of protesters at the Capital building on Saturday. The crowd, estimated at upwards of one thousand strong, was made up of local union members, Occupy Atlanta protesters, and many other groups who see the law as a violation of free speech and their right to peacefully assemble. Ben Speight of Teamsters Local 728 told the Atlanta Journal- Constitution:

“This is an extreme attack on our basic democratic rights. It’s also an attempt to bankrupt and destroy our unions.”

Occupy Atlanta participated in the event because the law prohibits protesting outside residences, making it impossible to demonstrate at CEO homes. The law has both an anti-union and anti-Occupy bias, not surprising considering four of the State Senator’s behind the bill are American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) members.

If Senate Bill 469 passes in Georgia it will likely make its way into other state houses. This raises the stakes of the Georgia protests.

Unions are frustrated because the anti-picketing law attempts to sneak in paycheck deception language that would make it mandatory for unions to get written consent from members before automatically collecting dues. Senator Don Balfour, the bill’s sponsor, has recently amended the bill to exclude state teachers groups and police organizations from the mandate in the interest of “sweetening the deal’s chances.” It appears, though, that the bill will face protest every step of the way.

Encouragingly, Tea Partiers are on the same side of this issue as unions and occupiers:

Julianne Thompson, Georgia state director for Tea Party Patriots, told The Huffington Post that she and her fellow organizers don’t see SB 469 as a political issue so much as a free-speech issue. Thompson spoke out against the bill at the state capitol Monday.

“When we’re talking about the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we’re not talking about political right-versus-left. We’re talking about right versus wrong,” Thompson said. “If it’s a violation of free speech we’re going to be on the side of the Constitution. I’m happy that we’ve reached across party lines with regard to this issue.”

The LGBT community of Atlanta joined in solidarity as well. Quoting a press release from Senate Bill 469 opponents, the blog GAVoice provided its readers a call to action:

We live in a time of unprecedented wealth disparity. All over the country, unemployment, foreclosures, homelessness, and a bevy of other social concerns have driven thousands into political engagement. We are seeing a totally new section of our population rising up against injustice in their communities and reclaiming power. Senate Bill 469 seeks to dismantle not just people power, but constitutional rights and human rights as well.

Throughout history there have been visionaries who are called to confront, nonviolently, powerful institutions of violence, oppression, and injustice. Such actions may engage us in creative tumult and tension in the process of basic change. We seek opportunities to help reconcile conflict and to facilitate a peaceful and just resolution of conflict. This approach to social change must not be criminalized.

Earlier this month, Martin Luther King III said that SB 469 would have devastated the civil rights movement had it been enacted decades ago.


One Comment on “Georgia’s Protest of SB 469 Brings Together Unions, Occupiers, Tea Partiers, LGBT Groups”

  1. An a attack on the right to assemble to protest is an attack on democracy and freedom itself.

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