It takes a lot to bring together Tea Party activists, the union members they resent for having benefits and pensions, and the Occupy protesters neither can quite understand. This is especially so in the Deep South, where unions are weak and the left crippled.
But the Georgia State Legislature went off the deep end Thursday, coming close enough to passage of Senate Bill 469, which would make it a crime to hold disruptive rallies outside businesses and private residences, that hundreds of members of the Georgia AFL-CIO, Occupy Atlanta, and Tea Party and other conservative groups descended upon the State Capitol in Atlanta, forcing legislators to drop most provisions late in the evening.
Apparently authored by the Chamber of Commerce, the bill could well have come in response to an incident in February, when Occupy Atlanta protesters made camp in AT&T corporate headquarters. Now, conservatives and liberals united in a chant of “We own the dome,” angry at the prospect of such brazen corporate influence in a time of sustained economic peril.
“It is time for our legislators to say we stand for the constitution and we stand for freedom of speech,” Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party told the crowd. “This will be one of the votes that will be used for our scorecard. We need to send a message: we will remember your vote come election time.”
These kinds of broad populist coalitions are the stuff of Democratic strategists’ dreams, and Thursday’s uproar seemed to frighten legislators into letting the bill die.