In late November, Greta McClain, Executive Director of Silent No Longer TN, was approached by a fellow community organizer about a coalition she and some others were trying to start called, “The People’s Party Coalition.” This collection of individuals and organizations – nonprofit, faith-based and institutional – was created to remind Tennessee state leaders that they actually work for and are accountable to the people of the state. Together, they developed a platform, held a rally on the first day of the 2023 state legislative session and delivered the platform to the Governor, State Senators and Representatives.
Since Governor Bill Lee has refused to expand Medicaid, the people have not received the 22.5 billion dollars in funding that is available to them. As a result, 16 rural hospitals have closed, and there are 13 more that may face the same fate. In addition, he just turned down 10 million dollars in HIV treatment and prevention from the CDC because he didn’t want to have to give funds to Planned Parenthood. When Greta was a police officer, she was exposed to HIV in 1994 after a suspect cut his hand on a broken beer bottle and then stabbed her in the leg with the bottle. Thankfully, she did not contract HIV, but not all first responders may be as lucky.
Greta attended the State of the State address with the intention of making sure she was seen and knew that meant that she might be arrested. Just before they opened the doors leading from the House chamber, she sat down about 10 feet away from the door with her sign. A Trooper told her to move because she was creating a safety hazard. She said there was plenty of room for people to get around her as she exercised her First Amendment right. He got in her face and told her to better get up. So she looked him square in the eye, told him that she wore the uniform for 12 years, told him what happened to her and said she was fighting for his health and safety, for the health and safety of all first responders, and the people of Tennessee, so he could do whatever he wanted to do. By then there were cell phones, press cameras and reporters asking her name and what message she was trying to convey and the Trooper backed off. She was not arrested that day but until the Tennessee state elected officials make some much needed changes, Greta refuses to sit back and watch them intentionally hurt marginalized communities.