NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Lights at Nashville’s Metro Courthouse were left on all night as a Metro Council public meeting stretched on until nearly 5 a.m.. 

There were a number of things on the agenda, including a proposed property tax increase. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Metro Council has had people call in for the public hearing portion of the agenda.

But instead of calling in about the property tax, the meeting was flooded with calls to defund the Metro Nashville Police Department, some waiting on the line until 2 a.m. to speak. 

One woman speaking to News4 said after waiting to speak on the phone for hours, she decided to come down to the courthouse to voice her opinions in person.

“I came here because I was on the phone for hours on end and couldn’t get through to speak out against BL 2020-286,” she said. “So I wanted to speak out against the budget because the budget is proposing a tremendous amount of money to our criminal budget system and even less money to education, healthcare and affordable housing.”

At one point during the meeting Vice Mayor Jim Shulman was captured on cell phone video confronting constituents outside council chambers.

"You all are destroying any ideas that you are doing by what you are doing tonight,” Shulman said. “I'm just telling you that this is bad politics and it is bad policy that you all are doing here. You all should know better."

Wednesday, Vice Mayor Shulman explained his outburst. He told News4 he felt the same message from dozens of constituents was taking the opportunity away for others to bring up separate issues.

"At some point it’s the responsibility of, I think the vice mayor, to say 'you know what? We need to listen to lots of people," he said. "There are lots of concerns out there."

Councilman Freddie O'Connell told us he was surprised by Shulman's reaction.

"Here is a group of predominantly young people coming to speak about oppression that they perceive, and the last thing we should do as a body of the people is turn around an institute oppression." 

O'Connell said he would like to hear more from constituents about their demands to defund the police.

"I will say there are a lot of reforms we need to make about how we do policing," he said, "but I don’t know exactly where to start in we should have 1400 officers instead of 1500 officers?... Help me understand what you’re looking for in particular."

The idea is met with strong opposition by the Fraternal Order of Police.
"It is heartbreaking, because there are men and women, who work in law enforcement from diverse populations, who are willing to lay their lives down for the very people who are saying we should be defunded. And that in itself is heartbreaking."

Metro Councilman Steve Glover said the people of Nashville were "cheated" after hundreds of callers "hijacked the meeting" to ask for the police to be defunded.

"We got six people who were able to speak out about the 32 percent property tax increase, and we went ahead and passed it," Glover said. "There'll be no more public hearings. The people of Nashville got cheated and the system failed them drastically tonight." 

Councilman Bob Mendes disagreed, saying he thought people had an opportunity to speak. 

"I think Councilman Glover is sort of a blowhard about things like that," Mendes said. "I'm not sure how much people were really robbed of an opportunity."

"Everybody in the county had the phone number, everybody in the county could have showed up here, and we got the comments that we got." 

Glover said he plans to schedule a Zoom meeting to allow more public opinion to be heard on the property tax. 

The third and final reading of the budget is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16th at 6:30pm. 

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