» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
Home
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
X

Forgot your password?
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 36 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 10, 2012




Some Occupy Nashville protesters remove tents

Print | Front Page | Email this story

NASHVILLE (AP) - About half of the Occupy Nashville protesters that were encamped on the Capitol complex for nearly five months have removed their tents.

Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the protesters informed a state trooper patrolling the area that they planned to leave sometime Tuesday night.

The protesters discussed their future plans at a general assembly meeting in the evening. By the time of the meeting, the number of tents - which at one time were as many as 60 on the plaza - had been drastically reduced.

Discussions at the meeting ranged from off-site storage for protesters' belongings to handling proposed legislation aimed at stopping them from staying overnight on the plaza.

Protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. Later that month state troopers arrested protesters, but a Nashville judge ordered them released. The protesters reoccupied soon after.

The decision to move came a couple of days before the legislation is scheduled to be heard on the House floor. The measure would make it a misdemeanor to lay down "bedding for the purpose of sleeping."

The proposal refers to items associated with camping, "including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators."

Will York, an attorney for the protesters, said some protesters have discussed defying the legislation if it becomes law.

"These are some pretty tenacious people," York said. "I would not at all be surprised to see the Occupy Nashville protesters carried away in handcuffs once again."

However, there are some who want to stay on the plaza and adhere to the requirements of the proposal. Protester Tom Sweet said before the meeting that for those individuals a plan is being discussed to have them alternate in three eight-hour shifts so there's someone from Occupy Nashville on the plaza, Sweet said.

"We're going to be here 24/7," he said.

Gibbons said the protesters indicated they probably won't go to "any other location for the present time, but may at some future date."

But he noted others have decided to stay.

"We may have a situation where the original Occupy Nashville protesters are leaving today, but we have some homeless individuals who are remaining," Gibbons said.

Supporters of the legislation say it's necessary because of criminal activity and lewd behavior where the protesters are encamped. Republican House sponsor Eric Watson of Cleveland has said that since Oct. 7, 131 people have been arrested by Nashville police, and there have been more than 1,000 reports of other misconduct on the block.

Law enforcement at the local and state level agree that crime has increased since the protesters began occupying the plaza, but it hasn't been a spike.

"There have been certain investigations and arrests that were related to the presence of Occupy Nashville protesters," city police spokesman Don Aaron said earlier this week. "But there has not been a tremendous spike in what we would see ordinarily."

Under the proposal, violators would be fined as much as $2,500 and face up to nearly a year in jail.

Opponents of the legislation say it's extreme. Rep. Mike Stewart, an advocate of the protesters, said he believes Watson's proposal is a factor in their decision.

"When you make people's free speech a crime, it obviously makes it very difficult for them to continue that speech," said the Nashville Democrat. "And in this case, what we have done is we have threatened to take a protest and make it a criminal act."

The legislation comes several months after Gov. Bill Haslam's administration lost a legal battle over a curfew that was used to temporarily dislodge the encampment. The administration is following a judge's orders and promulgating rules for use of the plaza.

The Nashville protesters are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in lower Manhattan to decry corporate influence in government and wealth inequality. It has spread to cities large and small across the country and around the world.

However, the encampments that were the heart of the movement are becoming scarcer. Last Monday, a judge issued what appeared to be the final notice for Occupy Pittsburgh to leave. Also this month, police began removing demonstrators in Miami; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C.

The voices are still making themselves heard, though.

Last Monday, about 20 demonstrators disrupted a legislative budget hearing in Albany, N.Y., shouting that millionaires should be taxed more. Albany's camp was dispersed in December.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
Name
Email  
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0