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Protesters cleared from Tennessee House meeting for holding signs

The protesters quietly held up 8 by 11 inch paper signs that read "1 KID > ALL THE GUNS." They were removed by Tennessee Highway Patrol officers.
Protesters cleared from Tennessee House meeting for holding signs
Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 22, 2023

An argument over 8 by 11 inch paper signs being used in the Tennessee legislature boiled over on Tuesday as the entire public was cleared out of a House subcommittee by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. 

On Monday, the Tennessee House voted along partisan lines on allowing the pieces of paper, Scripps News Nashville reported. The signs, seen in images and on video, read, "1 KID > ALL THE GUNS."

Democrats argued that quietly holding up the signs was harmless, and asked: If guns could be brought into Cordell Hull, why couldn't the signs?

One of the first three thrown out, Allison Polidor, asked the same question. 

"And deny our First Amendment rights? I am not leaving," Polidor said. "We have rights to hold a sign. If you have to drag me out, so be it."

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Officers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol approached her seat in the room and two officers lifted Polidor out of the chair she was sitting in.

"This isn't what democracy looks like," she said, as she was being removed from the legislature. 

After she was removed, she told Scripps News Nashville why she chose to bring a sign and speak out during the committee. 

"It's an attack on First Amendment rights," she said. "I mean, I am here for my kids — everyone's kids. They are making these laws, or lack of laws. I am here representing everyone's kids. No one should worry if their kids are going to come home from school or not. I feel like you can't sit by. When we've come to the point you can't hold up a sign, it's not OK."

Shortly after Polidor was removed, Scripps News Nashville reported that all of the public, apart from the media and lawmakers, had been cleared from the room where legislators were conducting a Tennessee House subcommittee meeting. 

In video shared by Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams, the room was almost completely silent as a security team member approached a group of people wearing pink and holding up the yellow signs, without speaking or audibly interrupting the proceedings. 

Strict and oftentimes ambiguous House rules on decorum and discipline have taken center stage in many arguments over free speech and protester rights in Tennessee's legislature. On Tuesday people from across Tennessee were seen gathering for marches and other demonstrations urging lawmakers to take more action on a host of issues. 

Lawmakers in Tennessee were gathering on Tuesday for legislative sessions centered around mental health, public safety and gun reform in that state. 

One of the bills calls for schools in Tennessee to create safety plans to differentiate between various alarm systems in schools that would be used during emergency situations. 

This report was originally published by Emily West at Scripps News Nashville, with additional reporting from Scripps National News. 

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