Hamilton County Commission acts on Occupy Chattanooga

Hamilton County Commission acts on Occupy Chattanooga

December 22nd, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

Two Occupy protesters who did not want to be photographed grab some belongings before leaving the campsite along the sidewalk outside the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday. Members of the Hamilton County Commission took the first step in their Wednesday meeting to remove Occupy protesters from camping on the grounds of the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the County Commission oust Occupy Chattanooga?

Document: Hamilton County Board of Commissioners

IN OTHER BUSINESS

  • Commissioners voted to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to make pseudoephedrine a controlled substance, which would make it available only by prescription.
  • They approved an extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk, which will extend from Ross's Landing to St. Elmo.
  • They agreed to a $181,000 state pass-through grant for a rail spur improvement to Designed Alloy Products Inc. in Alton Park.

The Hamilton County Commission took its first official action Wednesday regarding the Occupy Chattanooga protesters who've been camped out on the courthouse lawn since last month.

Commissioners passed a resolution expressing disapproval of those camping on county property and appointed Chairman Larry Henry to take enforcement action against them.

"We're just putting it in place as kind of a safeguard," Henry said after the meeting. "We're going to be monitoring real close the next few days."

The resolution, which passed 8-1, states that "in recent days individuals have pitched tents and otherwise set up structures/camps on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn in an effort to have an extended stay on said property in violation of certain City of Chattanooga ordinances, Hamilton County Zoning Regulations, and the laws of the State of Tennessee."

Henry said he's been concerned about activities such as open burning, sanitation, damage to grass by tents and the possibility that no one is actually occupying the tents at night.

Baris Gursakal, a 19-year-old University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student, was on the lawn during the commission meeting. Afterward, he estimated he's spent about 40 days at the site.

He said nothing the group is doing is illegal.

"If they want to kick us out of here, they need to come show us the legal grounds to take that action," he said. "They don't come talk to us. There is nothing that says we can't burn wood down here as long as it's for heating and cooking purposes."

He said the group purposely chooses untreated wood.

Wednesday's resolution wasn't on the agenda or mentioned in last week's agenda session, but was passed around by County Attorney Rheubin Taylor during the meeting.

The lone "no" vote, Commissioner Joe Graham, said he thought the best designee would be the buildings committee chair, but that he supported the measure overall.

Commissioner Fred Skillern said he's probably had more complaints about Occupy than about any other single thing in his time on the commission.

"Protestors, nor demonstrators, or visitors should be allowed to do anything on Hamilton County property that we don't allow our employees to do," he said.