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Special session ends with bill targeting protesters

The bill also includes harsher sentences vandalism, rioting and assault against law enforcement. It also adds some jail time as a potential deterrent.
Protesters march on Broadway during a protest, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers ended a special session with a bill that will create harsher punishments for protesters who camp outside the capitol building. 

The bill would make it a felony to camp outside the state capitol. On Thursday morning, a handful of demonstrators still remain on Legislative Plaza across from the capitol building. 

The bill follows protests that have occupied space outside the capitol building for nearly two months. 

The bill also includes harsher sentences vandalism, rioting and assault against law enforcement. It also adds some jail time as a potential deterrent. 

A similar bill that would have made camping outside the capitol a felony was voted down in June, but during the special session this week, Republican lawmakers said the step was necessary to protect law enforcement. 

Democrats were disappointed and called the bill unnecessary and shameful.

"When we have a segment of our society calling out for help, 'please listen to us, give us a seat at the table we can't breathe' and what was the response of the Tennessee Republican party? They put a knee on their neck," said Rep. Bo Mitchell (D). "That's what they did and I'm embarrassed."