Arrested Occupy protesters issued citations, released
Oct 28, 2011 12:35 PM CDT
A Nashville judge ordered the 29 Occupy Nashville protesters arrested early Friday morning free.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
More than two dozen Occupy Nashville protesters arrested early Friday morning were issued misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing and released from custody after a judicial commissioner in Nashville ordered them free on the grounds they did not have the time to obtain the proper permits now necessary to occupy Legislative Plaza.
State troopers arrived at the State Capitol in downtown Nashville just after 3 a.m., telling protesters they had 10 minutes to leave their posts.
Approximately two dozen protesters left the plaza without incident. Troopers arrested 29 protesters who refused to leave saying they had a right to stay on the so-called "People's Plaza."
More than 3,000 people watched live via one of the protester's Internet live streams as the group was kicked off the plaza.
A few hours later, before 6 a.m., Metro's night court commissioner, Thomas Nelson, ruled the state was wrong in arresting the protesters.
"I am not criticizing the highway patrol," Nelson told a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer who brought in the arrested protesters, "but, you have no lawful basis to arrest or charge these people. For three weeks they've sat up there and protested, under no admonition whatsoever that they are violating state policy with regard to camping out on Legislative Plaza or that they are committing a crime. When the state issued its memorandum [Thursday] imposing a curfew and changing the rules, right in the middle of a protest, they can do that, but they have to give them adequate time to comply with those rules."
Thursday, Governor Bill Haslam's administration announced it is imposing a nighttime curfew on the state Capitol complex in response to "deteriorating safety conditions surrounding anti-Wall Street protests.
The Capitol grounds, the War Memorial Courtyard and the Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville are now closed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Permits are required between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and special use permits, issued on a case by case basis, are mandatory from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
State troopers stood vigilant on the stairs to Legislative Plaza following the arrests of the protestors but left at 6 a.m., when the plaza reopened to the public.
The arrested protestors were released from the Davidson County jail shortly before 9 a.m. A court date has been set for November 18.
A total of 75 state troopers were involved in Friday's curfew enforcement.
In a statement, Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons told Nashville's News 2 troopers "took the appropriate action to support the state's revised policy that the Legislative Plaza is not to be used at night without specific authorization."
He continued, "The policy was revised for security reasons, and the protesters were aware of the policy. The process was handled by state troopers in a professional manner and without incident. It is our responsibility to keep the protestors safe on state property, along with citizens who work, live and enjoy downtown. We all must work together to ensure a safe environment."