It’s official: It is now illegal to pitch tents outside the Capitol Building or any other state-owned property not explicitly permitting camping.
Department of General Services says it will give Occupy Nashville protesters a week to clear off War Memorial Plaza, a marble topped public square the demonstrators have called home since the fall.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the legislative measure into law Friday, giving the state authority to begin enforcing the law today. However, Haslam has said he’s not interested in playing a game of “gotcha” with protesters and wants to give them a heads up before he puts the statute into play.
He told the Tennessean Wednesday he was still consulting with the Attorney General about whether the state should exercise the new law or first finish up changes to rules governing use of War Memorial Plaza.
He told reporters two weeks ago he planned on signing the bill into law but added it would be a matter of “months, not weeks” before the new rules would be finished, and he was unsure whether his administration would wrap that process up first before evicting protesters. That hearing is scheduled for April 16.
“We’re following the rule making process. We’ll have to talk with the attorney general and others to decide, once you pass the law, what does that give the state the authority to do,” he told reporters then.
Protesters can still demonstrate over night under the law, but tents and any other bedding must be removed by Friday, March 9. Punishment is a Class A misdemeanor criminal offense punishable with up to 364 days in prison and a $2,500 fine.