Monday, January 10, 2011

In which I call out racetrack supporters for their aggressive behavior...

This is not about a stupid yard sign.

I am writing this because 2 days ago I spent several nervous minutes alone in my home as I watched a Save My Fairgrounds petitioner harass me from my front yard. Although I never felt he would hurt me, I was not prepared for the awful, vulnerable feeling in my gut as the older man stood on my property next to my No Racetrack sign while holding up his Save the Fairgrounds sign for passing cars. I suppose in order to further intimidate me, these folks proceeded to slowly drive by in their gaudy Titans bus and honk their horn in front of my house.

Rather than note my opinion, which is on display in my front yard, and move on to the next house, these petitioners chose to take an extra few minutes out of their day to subject me to their hostility and to make sure everyone around knew that they disagreed with me.

I am writing because I don't think enough attention has been paid to the way some racetrack supporters are using tactics meant to harass or intimidate people who disagree with them. Ask anyone who has come out in favor of closing the racetrack. Go read the comments on my op-ed on Browns Creek in the Tennessean. Or if you were at the final Task Force meeting, you might remember racetrack supporter Lisa Leeds cursing and screaming in the face of council member Sandra Moore. Or at the Task Force meeting before that, when a racing fan became aggressive after she asked if I was a member of SNAP. Or at the council meeting last November, where frustrated neighbors sat as racetrack enthusiasts pointed fingers at us at a surprise public hearing and told council that our input was somehow not relevant because we are not over 100 years of age.

Actions like this are meant to stifle the voices of neighbors and are so obviously inappropriate. I know some neighbors have been wary of speaking out due to fear of being targeted by rabid racing fans. And yet I have seen certain council members and the media reward these irrational behaviors with words like "passionate".

No one can deny that racing enthusiasts show up in numbers and are a very vocal group. But I wonder, does one voice matter more over another just because it yells louder? I mean let's face it. Our neighborhood group does not have the money for billboards or a lobbyist. Perhaps I should try getting in the face Councilman Craddock or Dominy or anyone else supporting the status quo at the fairgrounds at the next meeting and really give them a piece of my mind. Oh wait, the rational person in me doesn't think that would effectively get my point across. Does that make me less passionate than Lisa Leeds?

Also, would those council members downplay the actions of the man in front of my house from the Save My Fairgrounds group as something any "passionate" person would do? I should hope not. That was not fun for me, nor was it funny to me. It was an awful experience for me and I think it further shows how easily activism in the hands of some (note: I said "some") "passionate" racing fans can get out of hand.

I am writing this to call them out on it. Enough already.

For the record, I wasn't comfortable confronting the man in my yard by myself. But I did file a police report.


  1. Wow! I hate this for you! It just shows when people loose their cool, they also loose all control. Hang in there! A few crazies doesn't make a right. Also, where can I get a NO RACETRACK sign?

  2. So sorry that happened, it must have been scary knowing there were people who seemed to be targeting you at your house. Honestly, some of our past interactions with individual race supporters are exactly why we don't have a yard sign despite supporting changes at the fairgrounds - we were kind of wary of being a target of some sort. Not that having a sign in any way justifies being harassed at home, just that we were afraid to invite that very thing.

  3. Thanks Mary! Shoot me an email about the yard sign.

    Rachel, that's what I think is so unfortunate about this, that anyone who lives near the racetrack not have their opinion heard because they don't want to attract undesired attention.

  4. Leigh Ann ShacklettJanuary 10, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    To whom it may concern, I am a huge advocate for saving the fairgrounds. I want to say that I am very sorry that someone appeared to be targeting you and intimidating someone who is clearly not in favor of our cause. Please accept my apology on behalf of the entire Save My Fairgrounds coalition. I will do my best to keep this from happening again.

  5. I had people come to my house, too and I was pleasantly surprised by their reaction when I told them that I LOVED the fairgrounds but HATED the racetrack. I explained my position and they explained theirs, and then they encouraged me to come to the council meeting no matter what my position on the issue. They didn't change my mind, but I appreciated the respect. SO UNLIKE ALL MY OTHER DEALINGS WITH RACETRACK SUPPORTERS.
    The way you were treated was unacceptable. Good for you to file a police report.

  6. But I wonder, does one voice matter more over another just because it yells louder?

    Excellent question. In light of some national events this weekend, it's a question we all must ponder.

    I'm so sorry something as simple as a yard sign -- FREE SPEECH, remember y'all? -- would subject you to such intimidation. Thanks for writing about it. Maybe some folks will rethink their actions.

  7. I believe in FREE SPEECH. You have the right to chose what ever side you want. I am sorry this happened. I can understand how you can feel this way.

  8. It's easy to see how this could have escalated had you been the kind of person who doesn't take intimidation in his/her own home lightly. Had you gone out and confronted the jerk, and had things gotten "out of hand" in some 2nd Amendment kind of way, this might have made the news.

    I lost a few Obama/Biden signs during the election, living as we do in this reddest of districts in Murfreesboro, but all that did was inspire me to return to the Democratic headquarters for more signs, which required a donation... so in effect, the assholes who took my signs directly aided Obama's campaign with their theft.

    That's called karmic payback where I'm from... :)

    sorry for your headache, hope it's your last!

  9. Without defending the inappropriate actions of some racetrack supporters, I will say that incivility exists on both sides. One anonymous commenter followed an Enclave link attached to my past comments on this blog and called me "trash" for questioning SNAP. Another anonymous SNAP supporter promised to endorse developments in North Nashville that I might oppose out of spite for my opposition to Mayor Dean's sell-off-the-Fairgrounds plan.

    In fairness, SNAP supporters of the Mayor's plan have also enjoyed the power of Mayor's bully pulpit and the free, unbalanced PR that Tennessean reporters and columnists have provided. The only power Fairgrounds supporters have against Karl Dean is the power of community organizing. And frankly, if SNAP intends to show it has competitive popular support, it is going to have to produce those 2,000 petition sigs that Democratic Party insider/former Tennessean journo Colby Sledge projected in December. SNAP is also going to have to muster more than 5 or 6 supporters at these public hearings to be taken seriously as a grassroots group. People who are invested in community causes have to take risks and show up at meetings to express themselves.

    The comparisons that some are making between your event and the tragic murders and mayhem in Arizona this past weekend are patently preposterous. To compare people shouting to people shooting minimizes the viciousness of the latter.

  10. Oh! I am so sorry you had to go through this. It's a terrible shame that so many people seem to think this is an appropriate way to get what they want. And even more of a shame that it often seems to work.

  11. It’s unfortunate you had a bad experience with some anonymous commenters, name-calling and what not isn’t productive and shouldn’t happen on either side. I wrote this to point out the amount of aggression they use when confronting us and how often it happens. My experience is that all I have to do is admit that I am SNAP member to anyone in a red shirt to get screamed at. It’s not human and it has scared some neighbors away from being active in this process.

    I would say the number of people they have bused in for council meetings is a near act of intimidation in itself. They are flexing their muscles. They call themselves the “Red Army” for goodness’ sake.

    As for numbers, I think it’s important to understand that our neighborhood is not very big. Less than 600 residences (about 1/3 the size of the Sylvan Park area) and many of them rental properties. Getting several hundred neighbors from Wedgewood-Houston to come to every council meeting is not likely to happen. But it is OUR little neighborhood, and after being ignored for so long, that is why we appreciate support from where we can get it.

  12. I'm so sorry if one of the people out looking for support frightened you. I'm sure no one that is affiliated with Savemyfairgrounds meant for that to happen. We have been frightened ourselves. The man who came to us asking for our support and telling us he would be there for us and our racetrack, has turned on us. When we act a bit supprised by his actions, which now, are against us, you think us the bad guy. Isn't the bad guy the man that didn't care about your feelings when he was sponsoring race cars and taking support from the entire racing community. His money made some of "those cars" disturb you. The very cars you want to be gone from your neighborhood.. he supported. And for him to now decide to shut us down, and he really doesn't have a reasonable alternative. He seems to just want what he wants, nevermind what anyone else (taxpayers and citizens) want. You think he's on your side... well that's what we thought. By the way, we don't bus people to the counsil meetings.

  13. I live less than a mile from the track and Fairgrounds and have spoken to three of my neighbors on the issue, in order to gather their feelings on the subject. In all three cases they admitted that they had not been keeping up on the issue and did not understand that the proposed redevelopment was part of a larger plan to develop the 4th ave /8th Ave corridor. One had even signed the "Save the Fairgrounds" petition when a pollster had come to his door because he thought houses would be built in the floodplain, which is absolutely untrue. I really do believe that there many, many preservationists who are both passionate about their cause and act with civility, but I also know from direct contact that some in direct proximity to the Fairgrounds have not educated themselves on the overall plan and how it will affect them, either for the better or worse. I hope that when I see a "Save our Fairgrounds" sign in someone's yard that the individual is well-informed on the issue and not acting out of fear of change.

  14. I have tried to respond in favor of development to Tennessean articles (online) regarding the Fairgrounds and track, but gave up after the responses ranged from being told that "you don't know what you are talking about" to being accused of posting false information, despite my cited sources. Clearly, there are a few preservationists who want to own that forum and will not tolerate dissent. I am not one to project the actions of a few on to a population as a whole, but dealing with the few can be frustrating and can seem pointless. Whether it's the Fairgrounds issue or any other hot-button issue, all sides should have their turn at presenting their views, and if the uncivil few do not behave as adults then they will incur the consequence of being the default representatives of their cause in the opposition's eyes.

  15. Leigh Ann ShacklettJanuary 11, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    DEAR SOUTH NASHVILLE LIFE, I sent you a heart felt apology from the Save My Fairgrounds coalition. I did this on my own behalf, I didn't ask anyone for permission or what they thought. I felt really bad that you had this encounter. You thanked me for my apology and then you had to come back and poke at those of us who really are trying to make a difference and be more civil about the issue. Well, the facts you claim could be "questionable" are true, we have collected over 50,000signatures over the last couple of months. We have been going to different areas other than Vine Hill/Wedgewood area. This is a Davidson County issue not just for the 17th district area. As far as a shuttle bus we use our own cars and gas to do our tasks. We don't have the Deanassean (formally known as the Tennessean) to spread the TRUTH. The Deanessean seems to have a hard time printing the truth about this issue...huum, wonder why? The RED ARMY is very proud to take on the battle of the council and the mayors puppets. The mayor is a selfish, lying, backstabbing, thief who came to the track/fairgrounds telling us that if we supported him he would support us. I think you have only heard one side of the story. I was trying to make a nice gesture because I thought you weren't deserving of the actions that took place, now im left to wonder if they were in fact proper and did you provoke the action. I really hated to see that you had to poke at us in the manor you did.