Thursday, November 17, 2011

Haslam Aides Armed Themselves with Talking Points Well Before Occupy Nashville Crackdown

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 12:18 PM

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When Gov. Bill Haslam tried to shut down Occupy Nashville, his aides disowned the controversy at first. They referred questions to the Department of General Services, which keeps the Capitol grounds. But it turns out they knew more than they were letting on. Well in advance of the first arrests, one of Haslam’s long-time underlings—Jeremy Harrell—helpfully wrote talking points for the governor’s flacks to recite to reporters.

Harrell, the governor’s director of constituent services and community relations, sent his talking points in an email at 7:49 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27. Outside of the administration, no one even yet knew about the new curfew on the state Capitol grounds. That wouldn’t be announced until after 1 o’clock that afternoon—and the first arrests wouldn’t occur until roughly 14 hours after that at 3 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 28.

“We’re going to get calls and emails today about Occupy Nashville and need to have talking points for our folks on the phone first thing in the morning,” Harrell wrote in the email made public by the administration under the state’s open records act.

People have a right to peaceably assemble. Those assemblies should be safe, sanitary, and non-destructive. After several assaults, it is no longer safe for the Occupy protesters or the community at large [to] remain on the plaza overnight. The occupy protesters can still protest during the daytime hours.

With talking points like these, maybe it’s a good thing Haslam’s flacks kept their mouths shut. A Port-a-Potty or two was about all that was needed to solve all these problems on the plaza.

Haslam’s crackdown is widely recognized as a blunder. He succeeded in rallying the protesters—something they couldn’t do on their own—and damaged public confidence in his judgment while he was at it. His communications team made matters worse by failing to give forthright and accurate information about what was happening.

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