Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Department of General Services billed Occupy Nashville $1,045 to provide two troopers for security the night before they began arresting the protesters and clearing their encampment.
The invoice was part of a public records request to the department from The Associated Press.
Protester Dorsey Malina said she was one of a group that met with General Services Commissioner Steve Cates on Oct. 26 over their concerns about security on the plaza.
There is some disagreement about what happened at that meeting. Malina said a trooper who had been making the rounds of the plaza at night suddenly stopped showing up and protesters wanted to know why.
They were told the state could not police their encampment and they would have to pay for security, she said.
Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman with the Safety Department, said troopers never stopped patrolling the plaza and Safety officials who attended the meeting do not recall protesters ever raising that concern. They were concerned about safety, she said, so Cates suggested they hire security.
Both sides say the protesters agreed to hire the troopers. On Oct. 27 the protesters received a bill for the services of two troopers from 10:30 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. at a rate of $55 per hour.
Asked whether the bill was high, General Services spokeswoman Lola Potter said the protesters were charged the same rate as anyone who requests security for an event on the plaza. She said two troopers likely were needed because it would be hard for one to see everything happening in the area.
Malina said that, to her knowledge, no one from Occupy Nashville ever paid the bill for the troopers because shortly thereafter they took the state to court.
The same day of the invoice, the state announced a new 10 p.m. curfew for the plaza and other grounds surrounding the Capitol, citing concerns about security and sanitation. That night, at about 3 a.m. on Oct. 28, troopers moved in and began making arrests.
After two nights and 55 arrests, troopers abruptly stopped enforcing the curfew, and on Oct. 31, a federal judge granted an order barring its enforcement. Since then, protesters have reoccupied the plaza and said they plan to stay through the winter.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Haslam has said the administration is crafting a new policy to govern the plaza’s use.
Tensions apparently were running high in the days leading up to the arrests. Emails between state officials show there were complaints from state workers, primarily about sanitation. Although the protesters had requested that Nashville provide portable toilets, the state did not immediately act on the request.
After the curfew policy was made public, two facility administrators with General Services exchanged emails about distributing copies of the policy to protesters on the plaza. Don Johnson asked how he could help.
“We should be able to handle it, unless you want to come for moral support!” David Carpenter responds.
“I’ll get in trouble and punch on in the head,” is the reply from Johnson.
Potter said the department has no comment on the exchange.
The emails were among about 300 pages of documents turned over to The Associated Press as part of a request to General Services for documents related to the decision to impose the curfew. The state withheld more than 40 pages, claiming they are protected from disclosure by attorney-client privilege.