Undeterred by their warm welcome, the Republicans held their signs aloft and screamed, “Occupy the White House! Fire Obama!” But after only a few minutes, they were smiling, shaking hands and chatting amiably with their fellow demonstrators at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. The GOP club president, Stephen Siao, even was invited to address the crowd through the People’s Microphone.
“The things you are demanding are unrealistic and will do absolutely nothing but add to the burgeoning debt that’s on each of our shoulders. You should be protesting at the White House, not Wall Street or the Tennessee Capitol,” Siao said as the occupiers expressed their disapproval by lowering their hands and wiggling their fingers.
Occupy Nashville was ready for the young Republicans because they advertised their counter-protest in the media yesterday. There were a couple dozen Republicans and maybe 100 occupiers. Cookies reportedly were baked for tonight's visitors, but we never saw any. Maybe the hungry Wall Street protesters ate them before the Republicans appeared.
At the beginning of Occupy Nashville’s nightly general assembly, Darria Janey Hudson—23, a Vanderbilt divinity student and former Fisk University student minister who was arrested on the first night of Gov. Bill Haslam’s crackdown—told the protesters to celebrate the arrival of the Republicans.
Tonight we will be joined by some of my fellow classmates from Vanderbilt University. I’m personally excited because they will be exercising their First Amendment rights to say whatever it is they feel and believe at the people’s Plaza that we held down just last week. But as we celebrate their joining us, let us not forget why we were originally here, which is to protest the corporate personhood and the corporate control of politics that’s put so many of us in such an economically disenfranchised position. Let us remember that 99’s a big number and it includes people of all walks of life. We are constantly growing, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Siao told reporters he supported Haslam’s actions against Occupy Nashville:
They have the First Amendment right to assemble, but they don’t have the First Amendment right to sleep here or to trash the Plaza and defecate on it. They have the right to assemble but once it gets dangerous or unsanitary, then the government has the right to come in and break it up. The governor did the right thing.
As the Republicans stood yelling at the occupiers, Jake Fentress appeared behind them and waved his own sign: “I Got Mine! Screw You! That’s How Capitalism Works!"
“I'm exercising my First Amendment right to satirize,” he told Pith.