March 2011, U of M students Justin Sledge, philosophy graduate student, and Sally Joyner, U of M law student, were among the seven protesters released from jail on bond Tuesday night following their arrests at a Nashville protest at the state capitol.
The two students, as well as Paul Garner and Leah Shoaf, students at Memphis College of Art, Jeffrey Lichtenstein and Bennett Foster, Memphians, and Ash-Lee Henderson of Chattanooga, were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The incident has drawn polarized reactions from across the state, with some applauding the efforts of the protesters and others condemning their behavior, including elected officials.
Thursday, state senator Randy McNally said he was "dismayed" when he learned that some of the arrestees were members of The U of M's registered student organization Progressive Student Alliance, calling for disciplinary action from The University.
Sledge is the vice president of The U of M chapter of Progressive Student Alliance, which helped organize the rally with unions and labor groups from across Tennessee.
Lichtenstein, though not a U of M student, is also a member of the group.
PSA issued a statement Thursday night addressing its role in the protest and the seven "unjustly" arrested Tennesseans, lauding the "scores of people who stood against empty rhetoric and for real democracy" during the protest.
The group said the actions of protestors during Tuesday's Senate committee meeting, for which Tennessee state troopers forcibly removed them, were not organized or planned in advance.
Of their criticism from elected officials, PSA said:
"If Nashville politicians spent as much time listening to the demands of workers and students as they do slandering PSA in the press, our democracy would be in better shape, and we could find more productive things to be doing on a Thursday night than writing press releases."
Lichtenstein and Sledge declined to comment individually on the incident.
Matthew Meiner, state treasurer of Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature and student at Vanderbilt University, was at the hearing when the protesters began shouting down legislators and refusing to leave.
"I understand their position, and I respect the right to protest, but it was kind of disappointing to see them disrupt the system," he said. "They made their points, but there are more orderly ways to do it."
Progressive Student Alliance arrests
In 2011, six of the people arrested in a protest James Sledge, 30, Jeffrey Lichtenstein, 25, Paul Garner, 22, Bennett Foster, 25, Leah Shoaf, 19 and Sally Joyner, 26 were with the Progressive Student Alliance at The University of Memphis.