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Tennessee lawmakers reject income tax as marchers cheer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Protesters hurled rocks through Capitol windows, chanted "no new tax!" and banged on the locked doors of the Senate chamber where Tennessee lawmakers were debating the creation of a state income tax.

The tax plan had died before the protesters arrived Thursday, but when word spread that lawmakers had passed a no-tax budget, cheers went up among the hundreds of protesters.

"The people are passionate when they say, 'no income tax,' " said Steve Gill, a Nashville radio talk show host who had called on tax opponents to swarm the Capitol.

Anti-tax protests have been frequent the past three years as lawmakers considered implementing a state income tax, but the protests had always been peaceful — until Thursday.

Within hours of hearing that the Legislature was considering a last-minute income tax plan, protesters swarmed into the area, honking car horns, waving signs reading "Tax Revolt!" and bringing traffic outside the Capitol to a standstill.

The rock-throwers busted several windows, including one in the governor's office. State troopers escorted lawmakers in the halls and locked the doors to the Capitol. One state employee trying to lock a side door was injured as the weight of the crowd pushed against him.

No arrests were made and no other injuries were reported.

"I appreciate the right of all Americans to free speech and peaceful protest. I do not, however, approve of those who advocate violence and I regret that occurred at the Capitol," Gov. Don Sundquist said in a statement.

Sundquist has said he would veto any budget that didn't include a new revenue plan.