Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a warning to demonstrators looking to set up an autonomous zone in front of the state Capitol Friday, saying that “lawlessness, autonomous zones, and violence will not be tolerated.”
According to a local news outlet, a large group of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd in police custody and racial injustice in the U.S., reportedly intended to set up an autonomous zone in front of the Capitol in solidarity with the demonstrations in Seattle.
The Seattle occupation, which has taken over several blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood declaring itself an autonomous zone, is reportedly a demonstration of a society without law enforcement – the demonstration comes amid nationwide protests calling to “defund the police.”
Seattle’s East Precinct was cleared Monday, after protesters clashed with police officers following days of demonstrations.
“After events on Sunday night, it was clear that the ongoing nightly protests at the East Precinct needed to be significantly defused and deescalated,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said in a statement Friday. “The East Precinct was a flashpoint, and the cycle of conflict between demonstrators and officers were harmful to residents, demonstrators, businesses, officers, and our city.”
The demonstration has remained peaceful but has been met with sharp criticism by the president who earlier this week called the situation a “domestic terrorist” takeover.
“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game,” Tweeted the President Thursday.
Durkan replied to the President on Twitter and said, “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.”
The Tennessee governor made it clear Friday that this sort of demonstration will not be tolerated in Nashville.
“We encourage Tennesseans to exercise their First Amendment rights and have seen many examples of peaceful protests across our state in recent weeks,” Lee said in a statement Friday. “As demonstrations continue, we will continue to protect Tennesseans’ right to peaceful assembly, while also reassuring citizens that lawlessness, autonomous zones, and violence will not be tolerated.
“Further, Tennessee law expressly prohibits camping on state property not expressly designated as a campground area, and that law will be enforced,” Lee added.