After waiting eight hours in near-freezing temperatures for state troopers to arrest them for the third time in so many days for violating curfew, Occupy Nashville protesters were left undisturbed on Legislative Plaza last night.
“We didn’t come here to talk about guaranteed rights about freedom of assembly,” Occupy Nashville activist and organizer Michael Custer said of the movement.
The real message of the movement is to call attention to and rally against “legalized corruption” in American politics. He said protesters plan to return to that message once the group reestablishes a presence on the Plaza.
Between early Friday and Saturday morning, state troopers made 55 arrests of individuals who were on the plaza after the new 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew set by the Department of General Services kicked in. The agency also mandated demonstrators obtain a $65 permit and liability insurance to protest on the grounds, although the state’s previous policy was to that ask groups obtain a permit.
On both previous arrests, protesters locked arms until troopers pulled them apart and hauled them to jail. Protesters were released both times after a Metro Nashville night judge refused to sign warrants, saying he could “find no authority anywhere for anyone to authorize a curfew anywhere on Legislative Plaza.”
A Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security spokeswoman issued the following statement upon being asked by TNReport why the state’s new curfew wasn’t enforced Saturday night or Sunday morning:
The curfew remains in effect and is intended, in part, to help ensure the safety of the protesters. We urge them to adhere to the conditions of the policy. For security reasons, we cannot comment specifically on the THP’s enforcement efforts, but the goal remains the same and that is to provide for the safety and security of everyone on the plaza.
Those arrested earlier in the week were given criminal trespassing misdemeanor citations from the state troopers.
Occupy Nashville is teaming up with the Tennessee ACLU to request an injunction to halt the arrests of protesters on the plaza.
Looking to take their protests to the next level in the wee hours of Sunday morning, about a dozen demonstrators chained themselves to a flag pole the state flag attached at the top. To link themselves together, protesters planned on using handcuffs with steel epoxy smeared over the key hole which would prevent any key from working and require each handcuff be cut by hand.
More than 150 people crowded the Plaza at 12 a.m. Sunday morning, expecting troopers to demand they leave as they did the night before. Around 3 a.m., protesters caught wind of what turned out to be a false alarm that troopers were on their way. By 6 a.m., the crowd had shrunk to 50 people.
As protesters awaited for their possible arrest, they chanted, played games like “The Hokey Pokey,” ate donated pizzas, slurped up chicken-and-artichoke soup brought from a protester who works at The Cheesecake Factory.
When bells in the Bicentennial Mall began ringing the Tennessee state song at 6 a.m., the protesters declared the night a victory. Some headed home for the night while others vowed to set up new tents after the ones they had used to “occupy” the area had been confiscated by troopers following Friday predawn arrests.