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In a rare confluence of interests, the Georgia Tea Party Patriots joined with Occupy Atlanta, unions and the local LGBT community in protesting an ALEC-friendly bill that would place severe restrictions on public protests and the collection of union dues. This coalition has got to be making the state politicians very, very nervous, since it's in their best interests to keep us all divided. Via Daily Kos:
Georgia Senate Bill 469, which looks to place extreme limits on picketing, brought together an unlikely coalition of protesters at the Capital building on Saturday. The crowd, estimated at upwards of one thousand strong, was made up of local union members, Occupy Atlanta protesters, and many other groups who see the law as a violation of free speech and their right to peacefully assemble. Ben Speight of Teamsters Local 728 told the Atlanta Journal- Constitution:
"This is an extreme attack on our basic democratic rights. It's also an attempt to bankrupt and destroy our unions."
Occupy Atlanta participated in the event because the law prohibits protesting outside residences, making it impossible to demonstrate at CEO homes. The law has both an anti-union and anti-Occupy bias, not surprising considering four of the State Senators behind the bill are American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) members.
If Senate Bill 469 passes in Georgia it will likely make its way into other state houses. This raises the stakes of the Georgia protests.
Unions are frustrated because the anti-picketing law attempts to sneak in paycheck deception language that would make it mandatory for unions to get written consent from members before automatically collecting dues.
Senator Don Balfour, the bill’s sponsor, has recently amended the bill to exclude state teachers groups and police organizations from the mandate in the interest of “sweetening the deal’s chances.” It appears, though, that the bill will face protest every step of the way.
Julianne Thompson, Georgia state director for Tea Party Patriots, told The Huffington Post that she and her fellow organizers don't see SB 469 as a political issue so much as a free-speech issue. Thompson spoke out against the bill at the state capitol Monday."When we're talking about the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we're not talking about political right-versus-left. We're talking about right versus wrong," Thompson said. "If it's a violation of free speech we're going to be on the side of the Constitution. I'm happy that we've reached across party lines with regard to this issue."