Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee warned protesters aiming to set up a “police-free” autonomous zone in front of the state Capitol in Nashville on Friday, saying that “lawlessness, autonomous zones, and violence will not be tolerated.”
“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 on 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.”
The Tennessean reported that a large group of protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd reportedly planned to set up an autonomous zone in front of the state capitol in solidarity with a similar autonomous zone being set up in Seattle.
The Seattle autonomous zone has taken over several blocks of its Capitol Hill neighborhood and is supposed to model a society run without law enforcement. The demonstration comes among nationwide protests by left-wing groups to “defund the police”:
For as long as I can remember, Capitol Hill has been autonomous – it's always been a place where people go to express themselves freely. Today at the #CHAZ, I spoke with organizers and community about how we can move forward and keep our communities safe, together. pic.twitter.com/XhtXHiIl9K
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 12, 2020
Despite Lee’s warning, a crowd of 50 people outside the Tennessee state capitol brought chairs, a few tents, and tables while state troopers watched. By 10:00 p.m., the protesters had not been asked to leave.