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More News & Opinions on Occupy Nashville Protests

A Cold, Surreal Scene
From Jeff Woods’s Sunday morning report:
Occupy Nashville maintained a cold vigil throughout the night at Legislative Plaza, and state troopers never arrived to enforce the governor’s curfew. At 6 o’clock as the curfew lifted, a cheer went up and protesters declared victory–at least for one day–in their free-speech fight with the state.
“We won this battle and now we’re going to win the war,” organizer Mike Anger said.
…The night took on a surreal air as the Tennessee Performing Arts Center held a gala, black-tie fundraiser on the portico of the War Memorial building overlooking the protesters. A peppy band on the portico played the Adam’s Family theme song, and patrons of the arts walked across the Plaza on their way home after the 10 o’clock curfew as if all was normal, ignoring Occupy Nashville and refusing to talk to reporters. Later, Wicked ended at TPAC, and that crowd also crossed the Plaza. State officials have said that, unlike Occupy Nashville, theater-goers have special dispensation to break the curfew.
Protesters held hands in a circle and chanted “oooohm, oooohm.”

Arrested Reporter ReportsNashville Scene’s Jonathan Meador reports on his arrest along with Occupy Nashville protestors early Saturday morning. There’s a video.
His boss, meanwhile, has called for a public apology from Gov. Bill Haslam.
Bad News for Bill?
Trace Sharp says the events are a “PR nightmare” for Haslam and Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
In Gail Kerr’s opinion: “Gov. Bill Haslam and the highway patrol overkill he authorized have given Occupy Nashville a major shot in the arm.”

Protests Without Arrests for Legislative Plaza Curfew Violations

By Kristin Hall, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Occupy Wall Street protesters chanted slogans, danced to stay warm and defiantly protested into the early hours Sunday near Tennessee’s Capitol building, squaring off for the third consecutive night against state authorities.
“Whose plaza? Our plaza!” about 50 demonstrators chanted early Sunday in defiance of an official curfew.
Capitol police sporadically made their rounds and a state trooper occasionally walked past the protest in the pre-dawn hours, but authorities signaled no immediate attempt to make arrests as law enforcement agents had done on the two previous nights.
Elizabeth Sharpe, 20, took part Sunday and said she was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement after seeing a 2003 documentary called “The Corporation.” She said she felt the need to be an activist in the movement that expresses opposition to perceived greed on Wall Street and across corporate America.
“How can I as an individual change this?” she asked, speaking with an Associated Press reporter. With the Occupy moment’s far-flung reach across American cities, she said she felt there was strength in numbers, adding, “”I got for the first time a glimpse of hope.”
Some danced to keep warm on a chilly morning and others shivered in the frosty air, huddling under blankets.
The protesters have been galvanized by the friction between state officials and the local magistrate. Several new demonstrators showed up at the state-owned plaza near the Capitol for the first time earlier in the day.
As many as 75 people initially remained after the curfew that started at 10 p.m. CDT and runs until 6 a.m. But by early morning only about 50 people remained and police did not make any immediate attempt to disband the protest.

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Occupy Nashville Sideshow Roundup

Haslam Defends Decision
Gov. Bill Haslam said he approved plans to enforce a new curfew on Legislative Plaza at 3 a.m. Friday because the situation had “deteriorated” to the point that action was necessary, reports the Tennessean.
Haslam defended the arrests of Occupy Nashville protesters for trespassing on the ground that protesters were informed 14 hours in advance of that a curfew would be implemented at 10 p.m. The arrests were made even though a state spokeswoman had said protesters would be given an opportunity to apply for a permit to use the plaza.
“It was my understanding that we were going to enforce the curfew from the very beginning,” Haslam said after attending a University of Tennessee trustees meeting in Knoxville. “In 14 hours, you should have time to decide whether you’re going to stay or not.”
Haslam said his administration was responding to complaints from lawmakers and the general public about sanitary conditions and safety on Legislative Plaza.

Judge Defends Dismissals
Night Court Magistrate Tom Nelson has sent an email to Davidson County’s General Sessions judges explaining why he refused the THP’s request to sign criminal trespassing warrants against Occupy Nashville protesters.
In the email, obtained by The Tennessean, Nelson said he ordered all of the protesters released from custody because the state had not given the protesters adequate notice that it was changing the rules regarding how and when they could assemble on Legislative Plaza.
Nelson said “until the new rules and regulations were promulgated there was no crime of Criminal Trespass pertaining to this group of persons for the past 3 weeks.”
He noted “It is of particular consternation that the rules and curfew were enacted after a protest movement and occupation of Legislative Plaza had been tolerated for just over 3 weeks, with no notice that the group members were involved in criminal activity.”
Nelson said the protesters should have been given a “reasonable opportunity” to apply for the requisite permit.

Arrests Fuel Occupy Flames
The state’s attempts to rein in the Occupy Nashville protests that have called Legislative Plaza home for three weeks may have served only to fan the flames, according to The Tennessean.
If nothing else, the protesters have a new chant to add to their repertoire.
“Remember the Nashville 29” is a reference to the protesters who were arrested at 3:10 a.m. Friday when they refused to vacate the plaza. It was among the rallying cries as the group defiantly marched back toward the Capitol upon their release from the Criminal Justice Center shortly before 9 a.m. Their arrests gained them publicity and new supporters, as well as lawyers promising to file lawsuits on their behalf.
“Everybody likes an underdog, and when you take steps against a group, that gives them a lot of publicity and things along those lines,” said Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University. “You can defeat the purpose of what law enforcement had in mind in the first place.”
The arrests appear to have incited people who didn’t necessarily support the movement, but who are appalled by the government’s response.
“It is absolutely my intent to be there in the next few days,” said Grae Taylor, of Knoxville. “It really feeds my fire and makes me want to be there to make my voice heard.”
Nashville defense attorney David Raybin said that he doesn’t think the Haslam administration thought things through and that the arrests could touch off a “second movement.”

List of Those Arrested Friday
As reported by WSMV: There were 29 Occupy Nashville protestors who stayed on the Plaza and were arrested. These protestors received Class C Misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing.
Those arrested were: Connie L. Smith, 30, Murfreesboro; Shauna C. Pluskota, 25, Nashville; Elizabeth L. Drake, 22, Memphis; Mark A. Vanzant, 22, Murfreesboro; Darria J. Hudson, 23, Nashville; Stoyocho M. Velkovsky, 21, Nashville; Michael P. Custer, 47, Nashville; James R. Bradley, 39, Nashville; Michael Anger, 30, Lexington, Ky.; Jeremiah M. Carter, 19, Bellevue; Tristan P. Call, 25, Nashville; Corey B. Amons, 23, Cottontown; Eric C. Painter, 44, Smyrna; Michael T. Weber, 35, Fayetteville; Lindsey G. Krinks, 26, Nashville; Alexander Pusateri, 20, Memphis; Megan L. Riggs, 25, Nashville; Eva N. Watler, 34, Pegram; William R. White, 21, Mt. Juliet; Adam K. Knight, 27, Smyrna; Robert J. Stowater, 27, Memphis; Christopher L. Humphrey, 24, Nashville; John H. Allen, 36, Nashville; Jeremy L. Scott, 27, Hermitage; Lawren M. Plummer, 24, Nashville; Scott P. Akers, 42, Madison; Paula E. Painter, 55, Cumberland City; Alesandra T. Bellos, 33, Nashville; William W. Howell, 64, Nashville.
Note: Fof political junkies, the best known Friday arrestee is Bill (William W.) Howell, who actively lobbies for Tennesseans for Fair Taxation. He’s also the oldest. Howell talked about his arrest to Jeff Woods.
Reporter Among Saturday Arrests
The Nashville Scene’s Pith blog reported a Scene reporter, Jonathan Meador, among those arrested in the Saturday morning round.
And Some Localized Reports
Four Rutherford County residents were among a total of 29 people rounded up and temporarily jailed after refusing to leave Nashville’s Legislative Plaza early Friday morning, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal.
Rick Locker discovered that three of the 29 protesters in the first round of arrests were from Memphis,,,, and officers apparently misspelled the name of one on the arrest warrant..
The Occupy Wall Street movement is planning another peaceful protest in downtown Knoxville this afternoon and while confrontations have occurred at other Occupy events across the country, Knoxville police are anticipating a peaceful event, reports the News Sentinel.

Second Night of Arrests at Occupy Nashville; Judge Dismisses Charges Again

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee state troopers for the second straight night arrested Wall Street protesters for defying a new nighttime curfew imposed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in an effort to disband an encampment near the state Capitol.
And for a second time, a Nashville night judge dismissed the protesters’ arrest warrants.
The Tennessean newspaper reported early Saturday morning (http://tnne.ws/vE2PXN) that Magistrate Tom Nelson told troopers delivering the protesters to jail that he could “find no authority anywhere for anyone to authorize a curfew anywhere on Legislative Plaza.”
Occupy Nashville protesters — including many of the 29 arrested in a pre-dawn raid on Friday — returned to the Legislative Plaza that evening and remained through the 10 p.m. curfew.
“To see it from the other side is even more infuriating,” said Chip Allen, one of the protesters arrested in the first raid. “When you’re in it, it’s almost surreal. This takes on a whole ‘nother flavor.”

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Gibbons, Judge, Protesters Comment on Occupy Nashville Arrests

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Tennessee state troopers cleared out Wall Street protesters from the state Capitol grounds early Friday because they didn’t have the resources to “babysit” the overnight encampment, the state’s safety commissioner said.
Commissioner Bill Gibbons said Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s office approved the pre-dawn roundup of protesters for refusing to comply with a new overnight curfew and permit requirements.
About 75 state troopers began moving into the Legislative Plaza a little after 3 a.m. Twenty-nine people were arrested, but a night judge refused to sign their warrants because the policy had only been in effect since the previous afternoon.
They were instead issued misdemeanor citations and released about six hours after they were arrested.
Friday’s arrests came after a week of police crackdowns around the country on Occupy Wall Street activists, who have been protesting economic inequality and what they call corporate greed.
In Oakland, Calif., an Iraq War veteran was seriously injured during a protest clash with police Tuesday night. In Atlanta early Wednesday, helicopters hovered overhead as officers in riot gear arrested more than 50 protesters at a downtown park. In San Diego, police arrested 51 people who occupied the Civic Center Plaza and Children’s Park for three weeks.
Gibbons said the policies were changed in response to deteriorating sanitary and security concerns about the protest. Members of the Occupy Nashville group had asked for enhanced protection that the state was unable to provide, he said.
“We don’t have the resources to go out and in effect babysit protesters 24-7 … at the level that would have been necessary to address their concerns,” Gibbon said.
It is unclear how the overnight curfew will be enforced against pedestrians who frequently cut through the area after leaving nearby performing arts and concert venues.
“That’s a good very question,” Gibbons said. “And we’re going to take a reasonable approach on that: Was a person knowingly and intentionally violating the curfew, or was that person just unaware of it?”
Night Court Commissioner Tom Nelson said in court that the state didn’t give the protesters the opportunity to comply with the new curfew.
“I am not criticizing the Highway Patrol, but you have no lawful basis to arrest or charge those people,” Nelson said on a courtroom video obtained by WKRN-TV.
Gibbons disagreed: “The judicial magistrate is obviously entitled to his opinion. I think it was adequate notice.”
The arrests were made about 12 hours after the state announced the new policy and erected signs around the plaza about it. Gibbons said the early morning was the least disruptive time to citizens who visit, work, and live in downtown Nashville.
Protester Adam Knight, an eighth-grade English teacher from Nashville, was among those arrested. If anything, he said the arrests galvanized the group.
“I think it was a great first step,” said Knight, 27. “We showed solidarity. I think it’s going to gain momentum.”
He said the group planned a march later Friday and would likely assemble again on the steps of the plaza, which could mean more arrests. When asked how long the group would protest, Knight responded: “As long as it has to.”
Bill Howell, a lobbyist for Tennesseans for Fair Taxation who was among the 18 men and 11 women arrested, agreed.
“It’s just completely outrageous that the state would make new rules and enforce them in less than 24 hours after they were cooked up,” said Howell, 64.
Police last removed protesters from the legislative office complex in March during discussions of anti-union bills. Seven were arrested for disrupting a Senate Commerce Committee meeting and resisting arrest but later acquitted.

THP Increasing Arrests for DUI

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Highway Patrol reports making 39 percent more arrests for drunken driving this year.
The THP said in a news release that troopers have arrested 3,407 people for drunken driving, up from 2,452 for the same period a year ago.
The agency reported the figures in a news release announcing that THP Col. Tracy Trott has been named chairman of the 2012 Nashville Walk Like MADD event. It’s sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to promote awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired. The walk is next June 2 in Bicentennial Mall Park in Nashville.
Trott has made drunken driving enforcement a priority since being appointed colonel in 2010.