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

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

November 15th, 2011 by Andrew Pantazi in News

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/Times Free Press.

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/Times Free Press.

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/Times Free Press.

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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