A federal judge has signed an order indefinitely barring the state from enforcing a curfew on Legislative Plaza, in the War Memorial courtyards and around the Capitol, reports The Tennessean.
David Briley, one of three attorneys representing Occupy Nashville, called Thursday’s action a victory for the protesters. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger converts a temporary, 21-day injunction to an injunction that will be in place until the court can fully decide whether the state’s actions violate protesters’ constitutional rights to assemble and exercise free speech.
“Everything we’ve filed makes it very clear that we believe what they were doing was clearly unconstitutional,” Briley said.
The state has stopped arresting protesters, after two nights in October when Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers swept up 49 people. All charges have been dropped, with the blessing of Gov. Bill Haslam.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, which is representing Haslam and the state in the suit, declined to comment.
See also Jeff Woods, who also looks back at emails to note that the Haslam administration was providing talking points about the arrests of protesters before the arrests were made.
The AP story on the judge’s order is below.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A flood of support for Wall Street protesters poured in after Gov. Bill Haslam imposed a curfew that led to the arrests of 55 people in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Of nearly 400 emails sent to the Republican governor’s office, only 11 supported his actions.
“Keep up the good work,” said an email from Sherri Tittle. “I appreciate you not being swayed by these protesters or the media.”
However, the majority voiced their disdain, some from as far away as Australia.
“I write to you from Repton, NSW, Australia, to express my strongest disapproval of the actions you are taking against the members of Occupy Nashville,” wrote Nick Rose. “Freedom of assembly is a basic right. Your actions are flagrant violations.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says a curfew and the arrests of dozens of Occupy Nashville protesters was an attempt to make the grounds around the state Capitol safe.
The Republican governor spoke with reporters on Tuesday, a day after state officials agreed to stop enforcing the curfew.
The protesters went to federal court on Monday seeking a temporary restraining order against Haslam, arguing the curfew and arrests violated their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.
State Attorney General’s Office Senior Counsel Bill Marett announced at the beginning of the hearing that the state would not fight efforts to halt the policy.
Haslam said Tuesday that the non-action was not an admittance of a mistake, but simply an agreement to a temporary restraining order.
Note: TNReport has video.
Woodsie has some of the Q & A at Haslam’s news conference. An excerpt:
Q: The state attorney general’s office won’t even defend your actions, do you concede that you’ve made some mistakes?
Haslam: What we agreed to was a temporary restraining order. That’s what the state attorney general’s office agreed to. There’s still a lawsuit to come so again, I can’t comment on a lot of those things. But let me back up and talk about this. For us, this isn’t about winning a legal argument, OK? It really is about our responsibility for safety, and we had a condition where we had multiple people come and ask us saying, we don’t feel safe here. We had state workers saying, you know we’re cleaning up human waste every morning. We had situations where even the group itself, Occupy Nashville, was saying, would you help on this? Actually, it was just a common sense issue. People are camping out. There are no public restrooms. There are no public parks in Metro that I know of or in the state that allow overnight camping without a permit. There’s a reason why you don’t go to Centennial Park and camp. It’s really common sense. There are no public restroom facilities. I’ve seen a whole lot of newspaper articles and TV news shows. I haven’t seen anybody interview our General Services workers who have been cleaning up in the morning.
Q: If you had it to do over again, would you make the arrests?
Haslam: Well again, our point was we thought it was important to set up a curfew. It was just common sense. There were people camping down there are no public restroom facilities, and crime had become an increasing issue. And so we set a curfew, which we again felt was reasonable. That being said, the only way to enforce a curfew was to do what we did.
Q: Governor, did the two speakers ask you to remove the protesters?
Haslam: I had multiple requests, not just from the speakers. I don’t want to blame the speakers. We made the decision. But I had multiple requests, not only from the speakers, but also from legislators, Republican and Democrat.
….Q: Do you think the arrests just drew attention to the situation?
Haslam: A lot of people say, well y’all are just helping these people. It’s not about for us helping or hurting the movement. We have a responsibility. Think about this. We’re not out trying to prove a legal point. This isn’t fun for us or our highway patrol officers. They have other things to be doing. But we feel like we have a responsibility for safety, and if something happens there, I can promise you this whole group will just be here saying, governor how did you let that happen?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Occupy Nashville protesters are suing Gov. Bill Haslam over a new curfew on the grounds around the Capitol that has been used to dislodge their camp and arrest demonstrators.
The lawsuit claims the curfew was created without following required procedures, and its enforcement violates the protesters rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and due process.
A federal judge on Monday will hear the protesters’ request for a temporary restraining order.
The curfew was adopted on Thursday, and at 3 a.m. on Friday, state troopers moved in and arrested 29 protesters. Troopers arrested 26 more the following night. On both occasions, the judicial commissioner refused to jail the protesters, and they were released.
Haslam’s spokesman David Smith said it was inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.
The Tennessee chapter of the ACLU will ask the courts to bar enforcement of a newly imposed curfew on Legislative Plaza, reports Chas Sisk. A request for an injunction could be filed as soon as Monday.
While the legal teams maneuvered, protesters returned to Legislative Plaza to defy the state’s new curfew, which has led to nearly 50 arrests over two nights and countless man-hours for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Both nights, a magistrate refused to approve troopers’ warrants and ordered the protesters released. (Note: There were no arrests in the early morning hours Sunday, a contrast to the arrests in the early morning hours of Friday and Saturday.)
…. The main differences were the tuxedoed guests and the strains of symphony music spilling out of the War Memorial Auditorium (on Saturday night). The Tennessee Performing Arts Center was hosting a gala fundraiser at one end of the plaza while 50 to 75 Occupy Nashville protesters huddled on the other.
The arrests began after Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration announced Thursday that it had imposed a 10 p.m. curfew on Legislative Plaza for safety and sanitation reasons. State officials also announced all groups would have to purchase liability insurance and take out a $65 permit for each day they want to assemble on the plaza, making official what had been an informal policy.
Implementing the new rules amid an ongoing protest may have violated the group’s rights of speech, assembly and petition under the First Amendment, some observers say.
“This is sort of a basic, core right to protest,” said Hedy Weinberg, state director for the ACLU. “The state cannot change the rules in the middle of the game, which is what’s happening, and the state knows that they cannot change the policy and selectively apply it.”
Haslam has said protesters were given advance notice of the curfew and chose not to clear the plaza.
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.
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.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is imposing a nighttime curfew on the Capitol complex in response to what it calls deteriorating safety conditions surrounding anti-Wall Street protests.
The Department of General Services announced Thursday that the Capitol grounds, the War Memorial Courtyard and the Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville will be closed to those without specific permission each night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. State workers began putting up signs around the plaza about the curfew Thursday afternoon.
Spokeswoman Lola Potter said the policy would be enforced once the signs were up, meaning the Occupy Nashville protesters who had camped on the Legislative plaza the last three weeks could be arrested if they stay overnight because the new policy specifically bans “overnight occupancy.”
The plaza is a frequent cut-through for pedestrians and adjacent to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and War Memorial Auditorium, where nighttime events often end after the 10 p.m. curfew.
Potter said the policy is not meant to affect people “strolling across the plaza” after a play or concert.
“If you’re not creating a disturbance, no one’s going to bother you,” she said.