Diary

Georgia's Habersham County kicks local Tea Party off government property by enforcing laws that do not exist

Promoted from diaries by Mark Impomeni.

From this story in The Northeast Georgian newspaper on April 16, we learn about another Tea Party that crossed swords with local government. Indeed, Habersham County government took issue with the 75 patriots upset over the growth of government…by telling them they had no right to use government property.

The first relocation, off [Habersham County] courthouse grounds, came at the instruction of Habersham County Commission Chairman Gerald Dunham through County Manager Janeann Allison.

Contacted Thursday, Dunham said, “We’ve asked our attorneys to develop an ordinance or a use policy. The situation yesterday was such that they didn’t ask us for permission. In fact, we didn’t know that it was going to happen.”

What is curious is that, as Gerald Dunham even points out, there was no ordinance to prohibit the peaceable assembly of citizens on government property and, point in fact, only after the Tea Party assembled did someone decide they had to leave immediately (even though event organizers were told by courthouse security officials almost two weeks before the event there was no permit required to assemble on the grounds).

“Obviously we defer to our attorneys on that issue, and basically we’re following their advice,” Dunham said. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not adhering to their advice and it having possible legal ramifications for the county.”

Right. Well, the problem is that County Manager Janeann Allison can’t explain what law was being enforced when they kicked people off government property, either.

“The approach that the county has been taking for people that want to use county property for any reason, we adopted the thought that we are not allowing that,” she said. “We are currently drafting an ordinance, but it has not been completed.”

Asked how long the prohibition of assembly on the courthouse property has been in effect, Allison said, “In the last year, I would say, this has come up.”

So, from Allison’s vaunted position as County Manager, executive dictate is sufficient to kick citizens off government property, even if no actual law is being broken. If this was such a pressing and urgent issue confronting her, why has it taken over a year to cobble some sort of guideline together?

But here’s the even more hilarious part of the story:

Earlier in the day, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, in a radio program, urged all Georgians and all Americans to make their voices heard peacefully Wednesday.

[snip]

Isakson pointed out t in the show he first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, allows people to assemble and speak out. He said two of the amendments should be “treasured, especially on a day like today.”

“First is the right to free speech, for us as well as those we disagree with,” he said. “Secondly is the right to freely assemble – and that’s what’s happening today. You’ve got free assemblies where people are expressing their First Amendment free speech rights. That is the fundamental basis of the United States of America.”

[snip]

Reminded of Isakson’s words about peaceful assembly on public property, which had been pointed out during Wednesday’s Clarkesville gathering, Allison said, “Our attorneys differ with that opinion.”

Uh…excuse me?

Fortunately, Georgia State Representative Rick Austin, also in attendance, knew that no laws were being violated by the group and eventually led them back onto government property. But, in the meantime, the County Manager and County Attorney for Habersham County, Georgia evidently disagree with fundamental components of the Bill of Rights. Sweet.

(Hat Tip to Buzz Brockway at PeachPundit)