published Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Occupy Chattanooga moves protest to make way for couple's wedding


by Andrew Pantazi
The Rev. Robert Williams performs the wedding ceremony of Lauren Filter and Mark Melville at the Hamilton County Courthouse next to Occupy Chattanooga on Monday. Melville talked to occupiers last week about the ceremony and they offered to move their tents so that they would not be in the background of their wedding photos.
The Rev. Robert Williams performs the wedding ceremony of Lauren Filter and Mark Melville at the Hamilton County Courthouse next to Occupy Chattanooga on Monday. Melville talked to occupiers last week about the ceremony and they offered to move their tents so that they would not be in the background of their wedding photos.
Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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  • photo
    Shane Pinson and Landon Howard move a tent at Occupy Chattanooga just before a wedding ceremony is to be held on the lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse on Monday. The groom Mark Melville talked to occupiers last week about the ceremony and they offered to move their tents so that they would not be in the background of the wedding photos.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    With Occupy Chattanooga tents standing nearby, the Rev. Robert Williams performs the wedding ceremony of Lauren Filter and Mark Melville at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Monday.
    Photo by Patrick Smith.
    enlarge photo

Mark Melville and Lauren Filter planned the day for months.

They'd get married Monday at the same spot as Melville's mother and stepfather, by the same pastor, underneath the same knotted tree on the lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse. And they'd do it on what would've been Melville's grandfather's 96th birthday.

Then Occupy Chattanooga moved in, camping out on the lawn for about a week before the wedding.

Filter's mom called the couple Saturday and told them that the protest group was in the wedding's way.

"No. Of all the places, why?" Melville said. "Why there?"

Melville drove downtown as soon as he heard, and he told the protesters that his fiancee was crying because they had planned a wedding there. Sela Randazzo, one of the protesters, assured him that they would move all of their tents to one side of the lawn so the wedding photographs would look like there never was a protest.

"The governor couldn't move us," Randazzo said. "The sheriff couldn't move us. The state troopers couldn't move us."

All it took was one couple wanting to get married.

Randazzo picked marigolds out of her garden in Hixson and brought them individually wrapped in a decorated basket to the wedding.

The rain started, stopped and started again Monday, and Melville told the 15-person wedding party that Filter was thinking of moving the wedding inside, but Randazzo let them borrow two umbrellas to keep everybody dry.

Then Melville received a call from the best man, whose vehicle was rear-ended on Market Street. Filter and Melville agreed to wait for him to arrive, which he did about 30 minutes later.

With protesters on one side of the lawn and the small wedding on the other side, Melville and Filter exchanged their vows and kissed.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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ninenineshift5 said...

This is just amazing. It goes to show how the protestors on site at the Hamilton County Courthouse love and respect the community around them.

November 15, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.
dompenn2010 said...

Awesome articles lately Andrew!

November 15, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
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