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Gibbons Promises State Law Enforcement Won’t Abuse Anti-Camping Statute

Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons says state troopers will ‘correctly and professionally’ enforce a new law that bans tents in state-owned spaces where camping is not permitted. The measure was passed to clear Legislative Plaza of tents put up by Occupy Nashville protesters.

Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said he doesn’t foresee any unintended consequences from enforcement of the bill intended to de-occupy legislative plaza, despite qualms of some lawmakers.

“I can’t speak for any other law enforcement agency, but in terms of our state troopers, I am confident that we will handle any matter that comes up correctly and professionally,” Gibbons said after speaking to the Tennessee Municipal League Monday.  Prior to coming to work for the Haslam administration, Gibbons was the Shelby County district attorney general.

“Right now we’re in a period where we’re making sure that all citizens have proper notice of the new law, and after an ample period of time, we’ll be prepared to enforce the new law,” he said.

However, not all lawmakers share his optimism.

Knoxville Rep. Frank Niceley, the sole Republican holdout when the House voted to pass the bill on Feb. 16, chose not to vote on the bill because of its overly broad nature.

“I was fine with moving the protesters off of the plaza,” Niceley said last week. “I thought that needs to be done, but the way they wrote the bill, it would affect anyone. If you’re out in the country — and the state owns hundreds of thousands of acres of state land — and you accidentally camp on one, well, some overzealous deputy could get you in trouble.”

The controversial de-occupy bill has passed both chambers, been signed by the governor, posted in public spaces and is now awaiting enforcement, which begins March 9.

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