Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons defended the predawn arrests of 29 Occupy Nashville protesters on Legislative Plaza Wednesday, saying the protesters had plenty of time to pack up and go home.
Gibbons made the comments at a press conference Wednesday morning, adding he decided it was best to make the arrest in the 3 o’clock hour to minimize public disturbance and to give protesters hours to leave the premises.
“We respect and support the right to peacefully protest. We’re simply urging those who want to engage in peaceful protests to adhere to the reasonable policies that have been issued by the Department of General Services. If they choose not to, then it’s our responsibility to take the appropriate enforcement action and we will do so,” said Gibbons.
The commissioner was joined by Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott, who said the troopers making the arrest acted with “incredible restraint.”
Both officials said it is the department’s job to enforce the policies written by the Dept. of General Services and deferred explanation of the policy to that department.
The protesters were issued misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing, which is a class C misdemeanor. They were released just before 9 a.m. and await a Nov. 18 court date with the Davidson County General Sessions Court.
Protesters with the Occupy Nashville movement say they plan to meet in a General Assembly at 7 p.m. Friday to determine whether they will remain at the Legislative Plaza location or if they will move to space by the courthouse down the street.