Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tre Hargett Strikes Again: Citizen Activist Detained at Capitol

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 7:58 AM

click to enlarge Bernie Ellis: a dangerous man
  • Bernie Ellis: a dangerous man
When last we heard from Bernie Ellis, mild-mannered citizen activist, TBI agents were descending on his farm to investigate a "terrorist threat" against Secretary of State Tre Hargett. It turned out all Ellis did was piss off Hargett with a sassy blog comment about Hargett's opposition to the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act. It requires Hargett to insure the accuracy and integrity of our elections. We guess that's a lot of trouble, so he's against it. The TBI agents sized up the situation fairly quickly and departed Ellis' farm with apologies for his bother.

So imagine Ellis' surprise when, upon his arrival yesterday at Legislative Plaza for a meeting with Sen. Beverly Marrero and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, he was detained at the security checkpoint as a suspected terrorist. Apparently, it wasn't enough for Hargett to send TBI agents to try to intimidate Ellis. It seems he also alerted Capitol police to this lurking menace in an email memo and tried to have Ellis banned from the Plaza. Ellis tells what happened:

"When I arrived, the officer on duty must have remembered who I was because I didn't show any identification. (Since I never have, I wonder if he had been shown a picture of me. Must have.) He started looking through a folder at the desk (which had lots of pictures of surly-looking characters) but he couldn't find the email about me. So he called his sergeant and kept mispronouncing my name (calling me 'Ellison' which I kept correcting). I don't know what his sergeant told him but I was allowed in the building but only after saying which office I would be in (Marrero's). The officer repeated several times that I was going to room 312 ("right?"). I said I had a meeting with Marrero and Jeanne Richardson and that I would be in one of the two offices. He then let me in.

"When I came out of the meeting, Cory Bradfield (Marrero's assistant) accompanied me to the desk. The same officer was there as well as another officer who kept looking in on our conversation, while talking into a cellphone. The first officer said that he had been told that I had worked everything out with the Secretary of State (which, of course,
I haven't -- I've never spoken with Hargett and don't plan to.) In any event, after I came back in to speak with you, the first officer gave me a thumbs-up when I left."

According to Bradfield, Capitol police checked with Hargett who told them it was OK to let Ellis into the building. Isn't that nice of our secretary of state? Pith just finished quizzing Safety Department flack Mike Browning about all this. Of the decision to detain Ellis, Browning said, "At this point, it was probably a mistake." (That's going out on a limb.) But Browning wouldn't say exactly why Ellis was detained and studiously avoided using the name of Tre Hargett. Apparently, among Capitol flacks, the secretary of state has become "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Q: Hargett sent an email or memo to the Capitol police trying to ban Bernie Ellis from the Capitol as some kind of terrorist, right? Browning: Well, we all know the TBI conducted an investigation into Mr. Ellis and they determined he wasn't a threat. Q: Yes, but why did the guards detain Bernie yesterday? Why are you dancing around this? Browning: Why do you need me to say it? It went on like that for a while. We asked for a copy of the Hargett email, and Browning told us we had to make a formal request, which we did a minute or so after our conversation ended. We also put in a call to the secretary of state's office but haven't heard back yet. "I just hope that the picture that accompanied this latest 'terrorist' alert was flattering," Ellis says. "We terrorists need to keep up appearances."

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