The Haslam administration gave Occupy Nashville protesters seven days to clear out on Friday, renewing an effort to remove the group’s encampment at the Tennessee Capitol five months after it moved in last fall.
From Chas Sisk’s report:
Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill Friday morning banning unauthorized camping on public grounds, and administration officials moved immediately to put the law into effect, posting 120 signs at state buildings across Tennessee officially warning that campers could be prosecuted.
The administration said it would begin enforcing the new law, which punishes unauthorized camping with up to a $2,500 fine or nearly a year in jail, next week. The law applies to any state property, but it was passed in response to the winter-long encampment by Occupy Nashville protesters on War Memorial Plaza at the state Capitol.
“Although the legislation calls for an immediate prohibition of unauthorized camping on state property, we believe a seven day notification period, beginning today, is an appropriate time frame to make sure the word gets out,” General Services Commissioner Steve Cates said in a statement.
News release below.
News release from Department of General Services:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of General Services Commissioner Steve Cates today announced that notices are being posted statewide to inform the public about a new law that prohibits camping on state-owned property, except for areas specifically designated by the appropriate department or agency, such as the Department of Environment and Conservation that oversees state parks.
“These notices are designed to inform citizens and visitors to our state about the new law and its impact on state-owned facilities across Tennessee,” Cates said. “Although the legislation calls for an immediate prohibition of unauthorized camping on state property, we believe a seven day notification period, beginning today, is an appropriate time frame to make sure the word gets out. After that time, the state will be prepared to enforce the statute.”
The law, HB2638/SB2508 sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland) and Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), makes unauthorized camping on state-owned property a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense, which calls for the maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500. It also subjects items associated with illegal camping to seizure and forfeiture.
The General Assembly approved the measure by a vote of 67 to 21 in the House of Representatives and 21 to 9 in the Senate. The governor signed the bill into law today.