By LUCAS JOHNSON II
NASHVILLE (AP) — Authorities in Tennessee made about 30 arrests early today at the site where a few dozen Wall Street protesters have been encamped for about three weeks in Nashville, protesters said.
Authorities began moving in a little after 3 a.m. using a newly enacted state policy that set a curfew for the grounds near the state Capitol, including Legislative Plaza where the protesters had been staying in tents. The state’s new rules specifically banned “overnight occupancy” at the public space and require permits and use fees for rallies.
But later in the morning, Jeff Blum of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office said the protesters were being released after a night court judge wouldn’t sign the warrants. He didn’t elaborate on the judge’s refusal.
Protester Steve Reiter, who works closely with the group’s legal team, said there were apparently problems with how the protesters were taken into custody, particularly concerning being given proper notice. Reiter said their release is a victory for Occupy Nashville.
Katy Savage, another of the protesters, said she peeked out of her tent around 3 a.m. and saw that the camp was surrounded by state troopers.
“I was grabbing our stuff to try to get it off the area,” she said.
Savage said people who had already decided they would get arrested sat down together and began singing “We Shall Overcome” as troopers took them — dragging some — to waiting buses.
About 20 protesters, who remained on a sidewalk, were not arrested and were still there later in the morning. All the tents had been removed from the plaza and state workers could be seen picking up items left by the protesters. Several state troopers stood guard at the steps to the Capitol.
Asked about the arrests, Savage said she was “disgusted and disappointed.”
“This was a group of brilliant, wonderful people that I had come to know as family, practicing democratic decision-making on public space. And for that they were dragged away in handcuffs,” Savage said.
Occupy Wall Street activists have set up camps in cities around the country to protest economic inequality and what they call corporate greed.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott would not give details about the arrests, saying only that authorities were there “to enforce the general services policy for the plaza and the Capitol area.”
Protester Albert Rankin said Thursday that the group intended to face arrests with “no hostility whatsoever” to avoid a repeat of violent shutdowns of protests in other cities this week. In Oakland, Calif., an Iraq war veteran suffered a fractured skull in a scuffle with police, and Atlanta SWAT teams arrested protesters there.
“There were some shouts here and there, but for the most part, it was very peaceful,” Rankin said of today’s arrests in Nashville.
Police last removed protesters from the legislative office complex in March during discussions of anti-union bills. Seven were arrested for disrupting a Senate Commerce Committee meeting and resisting arrest but later acquitted.
Published in The Messenger 10.28.11