Tag Archives: Nashville

Neighbors Protecting Their Own in Tennessee

New Orleans     This is a story that needs to be retold of a working class neighborhood in Hermitage, Tennessee, who stood up for one of their own, even if he and his son were undocumented immigrants.  Margaret Renkl, a contributing writer for the New York Times, wrote the story of what happened when,

ICE Came to Take Their Neighbor. They Said No.

NASHVILLE — Residents of a quiet working-class neighborhood in the Hermitage section of Nashville woke up very early on July 22 to find officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement trying to arrest one of their own.

An unmarked pickup truck with flashing red and blue lights had pulled into the man’s driveway, blocking his van. Two ICE agents armed with an administrative warrant ordered the man and his 12-year-old son to step out of their vehicle. The man, who had lived in the neighborhood for some 14 years, did exactly what the Tennessee Immigrant Refugee and Rights Coalition urges immigrants to do in such cases: He stayed put.

An administrative warrant gives officials permission to detain a suspect but it does not allow them to enter his house or vehicle. The ICE officials in that Nashville driveway were apparently counting on the man not to know that. With an administrative warrant, “there’s no judicial review, no magistrate review, no probable cause,” Daniel Ayoade Yoon, a lawyer later summoned to the house by immigration activists, told The Nashville Scene. He told WTVF, “They were saying, ‘If you don’t come out, we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to arrest your 12-year-old son.’” The administrative warrant they held did not give them the authority to do either.

Neighbors witnessing the standoff were appalled. “We was like, ‘Oh my God, are you serious?’” Angela Glass told WPLN. “And that’s when everybody got mad and was like, ‘They don’t do nothing, they don’t bother nobody, you haven’t got no complaints from them. Police have never been called over there. All they do is work and take care of their family and take care of the community.’”

Another neighbor, Stacey Farley, told Newsweek, “The family don’t bother nobody, they work every day, they come home, the kids jump on their trampoline. It’s just a community.”

More neighbors joined the scene and urged the man and his son not to listen to the agents. As temperatures rose in the hot Tennessee sun, they brought water and food and cool rags. They refilled the van’s gas tank so the man could keep his air-conditioner running. “We stuck together like neighbors are supposed to do,” Felishadae Young told WZTV.

ICE officials summoned the Nashville police for backup, but the officers who arrived stood nearby but did not intervene. State law prohibits any Tennessee community from designating itself a sanctuary city, but the police here don’t get involved in civil immigration cases. “We’re not here to enforce any federal script,” Sgt. Noah Smith told The Tennessean. “We’re just here if anything major happens.”

More than four hours later, ICE agents finally abandoned their efforts and drove away, though everyone on the scene expected them to return. Neighbors and activists linked arms to form a human chain from the van to the door of the house. The man and his son dashed inside. A woman came to the door and in Spanish tearfully thanked bystanders for their help. Shortly thereafter, the family fled.

Small as this story might appear to be when balanced against the great travesty of American immigration policy today, it nevertheless gives us hope. It is the story of David and Goliath, of Hansel and Gretel, of Robin Hood. It is the story of weakness defeating strength. It reminds us, in this cynical age, of what is still good in us, of what we are yet capable of, even against great odds.

So we salute the heroes of Hermitage — the ordinary people who, like the rest of us, are absorbed by their own worries, contending with their own troubles, but who nevertheless turned from their own lives to protect their neighbor, to shield him from the lies and tricks of the very government that was formed to protect his rights. We celebrate their courage in the face of unwarranted authority, and we take heart from their commitment to justice. We replay the video again and again to watch them link arms, to watch them calling out words of comfort and encouragement. We remember a truth that has lately been too easy to forget: We belong to one another.


Police Oversight Comes to Nashville

Nashville    Visiting with students and professors at Vanderbilt University was interesting and educational.  The questions and concerns about organizing and organization building, both here and abroad, were deeply considered and fascinating.  It was a good room, as they say.

Tennessee did not have a good midterm.  A former Democratic governor tried to right the ship by returning to the contest for the US Senate to block a wildly conservative US representative, Marsha Blackburn, who was looking for a promotion.  Remarkably, Taylor Swift got in the race with a smackdown of Blackburn, boosting voter registration in the state and nationally.  Nonetheless, the state stayed bright red.

Folks in Nashville were hardly dancing in the streets over the Amazon consolidation prize of 5000 operations jobs anymore than many progressives were celebrating New York and metro Washington’s billion-dollar tax giveaways to make the rich richer.  The price tag was lower by a pile of zeros, but money is money.  Both the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the more liberal page of the New York Times have roundly panned the tax giveaways to the richest man in the America and one of the richest companies, although the Nashville Tennessean seems silent on this issue thus far from what I could tell.

The bright spot in Nashville was the passage of police oversight board which had been successfully put on the ballot in reaction to a controversial killing by police of a black man in 2017.  A group called Community Oversight Now coordinated much of the drive and the campaign.  The vote was not close.  Voters applauded the oversight with a 18% margin:  59 percent to 41 percent — 134,135 votes to 94,055

The main opposition was the police association which spent $500,000 on the campaign, overwhelming Amendment 1’s supporters to no avail.  Despite being shellacked at the polls, they are still threatening lawsuits and appeals of the vote.  Typically, of these urban/rural splits that play out in state legislature around the country, there are threats by the solidly Republican legislature of void the democratic vote and try to overturn the election, although that seems preposterous.  The cow is out of the barn.   We have seen a number of state legislatures takeaway a city’s future rights, but this one will be harder to overturn.  The mayor, despite having opposed the amendment, has committed to enacting it by executive order if necessary.

Meanwhile, the board is already in the process of being formed with momentum on their side.  Application deadlines for members among citizens have already been set and publicized.   The police opposition was bizarre.  They tried to fabricate a claim of potential future tax increases based on unsubstantiated costs of the oversight.

This hardly a revolutionary move in Nashville.  One hundred cities around the country already have oversight boards of one type or another.  What’s important is that progressives were able to win and do so handily, making Nashville a city to watch.