Ear to the Ground: Winning the War-Protest Battle

Winning the War-Protest Battle

In the negotiations that ensued after police officers demanded local activist Bob Grimac limit his visuals to what he and fellow war protesters could carry on April 28, Grimac thought about mentioning another group that's not similarly restricted.

Each Saturday, not two blocks from where Grimac's group protests every third Sunday at the corner of Concord and Kingston Pike, anti-abortion activists picket the Volunteer Medical Services site from the sidewalk across Concord. They mount two oversize photo-image signs larger than even two people could carry in the grassy perimeter at the front and to the side of the clinic and put a wooden cross near the clinic parking lot.

"It occurred to me to bring that up to the police, but they found in our favor," says Grimac, who reached an agreement with KPD three days before his 50th protest June 8.

Carol Nickle, a member of Grimac's group and an attorney, talked to the city law department, he says. "They apparently agreed with us and called the police department and Carol and I and a police officer met and they said we can continue putting our signs up as we have for three years—we do have the right to express our disgust with the war. The only restriction is that you can't block visibility of traffic, which we've never done."

In the five weeks Grimac was restricted, the abortion protests were not cited by the police, says KPD Public Information Officer Darrell DeBusk.

KAT Cuts

It's a painful irony that just as public transportation is looking better than ever, compared to buying gas for the car, our bus system is cutting back its services. The high price of fuel is hitting Knoxville Area Transit, which is considering a dozen possible cutbacks, including axing the already-limited Sunday service, re-instating advertising, and killing the Halls and Farragut express lines. (Some suburban lines have been popular recently, but suburbanites don't contribute much to the system, at least not through Knox County taxes. The City of Knoxville, covers almost half of KAT's budget and is KAT's biggest funder.) It could be worse: the smaller KAT buses run on butane, which so far has not been much affected by the rise in other fuel prices.

Fare hikes aren't on the table right now, but are being considered under a separate process to be proposed in the fall.

The Knoxville Transportation Authority meets this Thursday at 3:00 at the City-County Building's Main Assembly Room and will schedule a public hearing about the changes in July.

Two Fewer Cluttersome Buildings

Last week, crews tore down a couple of long one-story buildings on Market Street near Cumberland. They weren't very distinguished buildings, covered with some kind of ‘70s fashion-victim ersatz stucco. They were older than that, but due to modifications, including a reduction in height, didn't qualify as historic. Pedestrians might never have noticed them if not for the handy mirrored windows along the sidewalk, which were clear enough to check for spinach in your teeth. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, one of them contained the law firm of Morrison, Morrison, Tyree & Reeves, the office of former mayor (and now candidate for sheriff) Randy Tyree. He now keeps an office in a nicer-looking old building across the street, and stepped out to survey the demolition. "This is where my office was when I first announced my candidacy for mayor," he remarked, without obvious tears.

According to a member of the crew, all the demolition is just for an expansion of the already enormous surface parking lot near the Bijou Theatre. Now the only actual building left on that whole square block in the center of the highest-rent part of the central business district is the Pryor-Brown building—a parking garage.