It’s hard to find a major city any more in which there is not something being protested. It’s been argued that President Trump was able to create jobs even before he took office – George Soros was only too happy to pay for protesters. Protesting might not be a long term career goal, but at least it’s something.

The modus operandi of these protest groups is fodder for textbooks. They often show up wearing matching t-shirts. Their plans include completely disrupting any of the government’s business proceedings taking place through whatever means necessary. They begin by “occupying” space. Paid protesters will line the halls of the legislature, fill the seats in committee meetings, and stage sit-ins in the offices of public officials. They also make noise – shouting, singing, chanting, and banging on drums or doors are all common tactics.

Seasoned legislators at every level have learned to accept that there will, from time to time, be somebody protesting something. They most often develop thick skin and walk past the shouts, signs, and threats in order to carry out the business of the government.1 Newer lawmakers, struggling with their new environment to begin with, may have a more difficult time of adjusting. Regardless, supportive constituents can be very helpful when the aforementioned protesters go too far. A simple call or email relaying that you support your representative or senator and are praying for him/her can go a long way.

But what happens when the conservative right wants to protest?

In Tennessee, this matter will come up this week. It is expected that hundreds of residents who are outraged over the impending gas tax submitted by Governor Haslam will converge on the state capitol this Wednesday morning in protest. Exactly how that protest will be carried out remains to be seen. Conservatives actually have a pretty good track record of peaceful protests, though. After the 9/12 Rally on the National Mall almost a decade ago, participants collected their trash and cleaned up the area. This behavior was completely unexpected by the custodial workers prepared to clean up after them. They came, they protested, they cleaned up after themselves. Nice.

I have no doubt that the Plaza will be completely spotless after Wednesday’s protest. My concern is how protesters will conduct themselves. Emotions are flying high as we face the highest tax hike in Tennessee history. It would be so easy for these emotions to overwhelm our better angels and take up the tactics of other protest groups, such as Indivisible.2  The temptation will be greater if members of that, or similar, organizations show up to protest and employ such behavior. This writer encourages you to resist such temptation. Frankly, the staff and legislators at the state capitol are unimpressed and quite tired of their rudeness. Such misbehavior is not gaining them any ground, and it won’t work for our side either.

Several years ago, when faced with an income tax, protesters made their point calmly, albeit loudly. For several days while such legislation was being considered, protesters drove in circles around Legislative Plaza where lawmakers were meeting and honked their car horns. While it was probably annoying to those with offices next to the street, committee meetings were not interrupted, and business continued normally. No one “stormed the castle.” No one staged a sit-in. No one banged on an office door. Yet legislators got the message, and the income tax died.  I wasn’t yet active in the political arena when this happened, but I did listen to radio reports regarding the honking and circling, and I saw that their tactics were completely effective. Tennesseans have since made it abundantly clear that we will NOT stand for a state income tax.

As a young child, my mother often admonished “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” While vinegar in the form of honking horns may be necessary on some occasions, it’s often helpful to start with some honey. Contact your legislators with a phone call or email, and politely let them know that you oppose a gas tax hike. Ask for an appointment to meet with them.  If you plan to go inside the plaza or capitol, dress for the occasion. It’s a business office, so dress in business attire instead of jeans and a t-shirt. If you meet with a legislator, be respectful. They are elected officials, so somebody somewhere likes them. Your threats of replacing them, or any other threat, will fall on deaf ears. Remember, you may need that legislator on a future matter. Don’t burn a bridge you may need to cross someday.

We can stop the gas tax if we work together wisely and strategically. Continue to remind legislators that they are supposed to be conservatives and oppose higher taxes. Resist the temptation to “light up their phones” or “flood their email account.” Don’t give the appearance of a bought-and-paid-for protester. You’re better than that, and you deserve more respect than that. As a citizen of Tennessee, you have a right for your voice to be heard, but don’t be the nagging sound of a constant bang on a door. Spread so much honey when you protest that legislators will want to listen to what you have to say. And let’s stop this gas tax!


~Temerity Dowell


  1. That’s not as easy as it sounds. One secretary told me that during the “Occupy” movement a few years ago, protesters set tents up outside her office window and, with the tent flaps wide open, proceeded to copulate below the steps of the state capitol.
  2. If you’ve not heard of this group of protesters, I encourage you to do some research. They have set up organizations nationwide, and plan to disrupt government meetings and spread their liberal agenda as they stand against anything in the Trump agenda. You can learn more about them here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/22/meet-indivisible-progressive-organization-behind-r/

For more information regarding the rally in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, March 1st, go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/630751920443807/?active_tab=discussion



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